Sunday, 6 June 2010

help wanted/ the 80's/ my novel....


I've made a decision, that I am writing about here in order to commit myself.

After six months of pondering, wondering, not writing and not thinking about writing apart from in a tiny place way back on a dusty shelf in my brain somewhere, I've decided to go back to my novel.

The birth of the idea of this novel was so long ago, I can't remember the exact starting point. It evolved and evolved mostly in thought but also in about fifty thousand words of confused writing. I went on an Arvon course on novel writing with the brilliant Suzanne Berne and Marjorie Sandor, and really got to grips with what I wanted the voice of the novel to be, the issues, the confict, and half an idea of what the resolution might be. I started writing the novel over again, with all this progress behind me.

And then I made a mistake. I went on an advanced fiction writing course that was really not suited to my style of working, my levels of confidence or the stage I had reached in my writing. I felt as though I was being told a lot of 'do it like this', 'you should do this', and in fact, probably don't bother because it's so hard to get published that hardly anyone succeeds anyway. I tried hard to feel as though I belonged there, but in truth, I think I felt like a rabbit in the headlights and the progress was undone. I left the course midway through and haven't looked at my novel since.

Ha. That's a bit of a story. It was also quite a few years ago. Of course, I kept writing short fiction, flash and prose poetry, and that's been fun. But, the main character from my novel still speaks to me from time to time. I still think about her and her story. The themes are very important to me, the bedrock of my writing to be honest. It's not autobiographical, but I guess I have lived some of the issues in a very different way, there are elements of different characters that are me, and the setting is not georgraphically real, but is real to me in a strange imaginary way.

So, I am setting up my spare room as a study.

I am gathering past drafts of my novel, research notes, books, and other material that will help me get back into the novel's world again.

I am going to set aside time to write. It doesn't sound a lot, but I'm going to set aside an evening each week to start with. I don't want to overkill. If I want to write more, I will. But I want this to be enjoyable, not a second full-time job. So, I want low expectations of myself so I can achieve or exceed them, rather than feeling as though I'm failing before I begin.

I am going to start my reading chapter one and see how it reads now all this time has passed. And start from there.

Gosh. Wish me luck.

I really want to get into the social setting of the novel - a working class family living in a northern town in the early 80's. I won't say more than that. But if you really want to spur me on, then I have a request. I want to surround my writing desk with objects, photos, postcards, whatever that get me into that time - the kinds of hair/clothes/cars/what was going on in the streets/schools/TV.

I have already collected some personal things that take me to that time, my school reports, train tickets, some grainy looking photos, some postcards of the strikes, my collection of very 80s looking badges, an ultravox 7" single sleeve, my address book from the 80s, a gold heart shaped pendant...

But, I would love it, if people want to send me something that I can add to my collection. It might be a sweet wrapper, a cinema ticket, a photo, a newspaper clipping, a postcard, I'm not sure exactly what, but something that might immerse me in that time/place/class. If anyone has got anything they want to send me, then drop me an email and I will send an address. I will care for it, return it if you wish, and be very grateful for the inspiration.

So, deep breath. This time next week, I am going to sit down and have my first date with my novel, and am hoping, really hoping that this time I can do it.


CathM said...

Good luck with your novel project. It's very brave but I'm sure with a generous helping of 'discipline' you can do it!

sonia said...

sounds exciting. i will have a look what i have from the 80s. I've got a diary that might have something tucked in the back of it. I think it very good to start with achieveable time slot for writing. Like someone said even 10 minutes regularly add up to a novel.

Megan said...

Yay Annie!!
This is such great news - of course you can do it. And brilliantly, I have no doubt.

Enjoy the journey, and if you ever need a second reader, or a bit of a moan along the way, do email.

Mostly though, have fun!

annie clarkson said...

Thanks, all words of encouragement are so appreciated!


Just read this now: absolutely fucking fantastic, Annie. I'm looking forward to reading it.