I’m deep in writing mode at the moment. I’m also deep in re-writing and proofing and a range of other things. And reading, always reading. I’ve been reading Eireann Corrigan, an author I discovered by accident when I inherited the Writing for Children course at Curtin University from Georgia Richter. Readings from the course’s previous incarnation included a short excerpt from one of Corrigan’s books (a YA poetry memoir titled You Remind Me Of You) – just a few poems but enough for me to immediately see that this was great stuff, and wonder why I hadn’t heard of her before. I haven’t managed to track that book down yet but I did find Splintering – a YA verse novel – and was reassured that Corrigan is as fiercely talented as those first few pages – even the first line, which made me stop in my tracks – had me believe.
Here is that rarest of things – a verse novel which doesn’t sacrifice the focus and richness of language poetry demands in the service of narrative, which achieves, effortlessly it seems, that precarious balancing act or fusion in which both elements pull equally together.
The writers reading this are smiling their wry writerly smiles right now. Because they know exactly how much effort goes into effortlessly.
I think every writer knows this moment, when the novel you’ve been wrestling with suddenly turns and rolls over, like a dog baring its submissive belly and says, “Yes, okay, you win. The way is clear. Go on, now.”
Ahh, I do like this.
Of course, I suspect most writers also know the moment that can follow – when the dog, having given you your brief belly-rubbing moment, leaps up and locks your wrist in a death-grip, and the dance begins again.
But that’s another story altogether (hopefully).
For now, back to work, with guarded optimism.
* WIP = Work In Progress
In my ‘Writing’ folder there is a ‘Junior Fiction’ folder. In my ‘Junior Fiction’ folder there is a ‘Duck for a Day’ folder.
This is all well and good. This is the sign of an organised mind, an organised computer, a manageable filing system.
But what is inside the ‘Duck for a Day’ folder?
When I talk to school groups, I sometimes show pages from my notebooks, or bits and pieces of paper where I’ve jotted down story ideas. And in doing so, I often make the point that neat handwriting is a very good thing. Because sometimes – quite often, really – when I come later to read what it is that I’ve written down, I find that I can’t, that the idea I remember as being so very brilliant is in fact a meaningless series of squiggles. Or I get to the shops and discover I can’t decipher half the items on my list.
But sometimes things work the other way. Sometimes having terrible handwriting leads, accidentally, to all sorts of surprising connections. In poetry workshops, I’m always talking about making words jostle up against words they wouldn’t normally hang around with. And sometimes this is what happens when I try to make sense of my own writing.
No, I didn’t forget to finish that sentence. Because it’s not a sentence. It’s a collection of words with which I am currently engaged in mortal combat.
Every writer has words like these, words they throw in all over the place which serve little purpose, words which can usually be cut to make the writing tighter. These are some of mine, and now that I’m in the final stages of my novel and I’ve done all the major cutting and rearranging and wailing and gnashing of teeth, it’s time for the small stuff. It’s time for these words to be hunted down and destroyed.
I’ve finished the first draft of my work-in-progress (too early to call it a novel at this stage). It needs a fair bit of re-shaping and editing, but it’s taking on novel-like qualities, which is pleasing.
In the first-draft stage, I’ve been trying a new approach. Rather than getting bogged down trying to find the right words at each point, I’m letting myself construct a scaffolding, sketching out just the bare bones at points, and then keep going. So there are points in the manuscript where I’ve written things like ‘S says why doesn’t B just get over it etc’ or ‘Stuff here about L, maybe go back to rock part?’ and then moved on.
Izzie continues to resist me. She wants to go this way, then that, then back the other way. Remember those old Choose Your Own Adventure Books (if you open the door, turn to page 18; if you turn around and go back to the hotel, turn to page 27, and so on). I was always very reluctant to commit to what might be unwise decisions, and would keep a finger in every page, so I could go back to key points and undo the choices that had led to my untimely death (I also used to make massive charts of which paths led where and all the complex ways in which they intersected, but that’s another book-geek story altogether).