Somewhere between what I hope my book will resemble when its finished and what it’s like now is this big slice of proactive fantasy. When freelance work gets the better of me, and I take a few days away from it, I have these cocktail-soaked moments of cut-throat clarity: I know exactly which scenes I need to cull. I know exactly what’s missing, what’s unclear, what needs to be sharpened and what needs to go. The longer I spend away from it, the closer I feel to finishing it, because the dead bits, the fat that needs cutting away, are so cleanly dealt with in the mind, but getting to grips with it on the page is nigh on impossible.
I’m having a break from this project for a while. During a recent online Q&A with the writer Erin Kelly, I asked her if she’d ever shelved a project. I had my fingers crossed that she’d be like, “Totes, all writers do it” but instead she was all “fuck no” (well, I’m paraphrasing but that was the crux of her reply). I need some space from it, to figure out what actually needs changing and what’s currently working.
Not that anyone cares, I’m just trying to get back into blogging on this blog. Most of my love and attention goes to Smokin’ Tofu, my veggie/vegan food blog.
There’s a great quote in the Mslexia 2012 diary from writer Joan Didion:
Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. Novels are like paintings, specifically watercolours. Every stroke you put down you have to go with. Of course you can rewrite, but the original strokes are still there in the texture of the thing.
My novel, right now, feels like a muddy page of overlapping layers of watercolour. It began as a short story I wrote in the summer of 2008, before my final year of university. I spent the following two years developing plot and characters, eventually writing 50,000 words before starting an MA in prose fiction. After maybe two workshops, I realised my plot was far-fetched and ridiculous, and the whole thing hinged on a massive and unlikely coincidence – a cardinal sin. So I scrapped it and started again, keeping most of the characters, the premise and the setting intact, but overhauling the plot and changing trajectory entirely.
I have since enjoyed a cancan of false starts, when what I’m really aiming for is a conga line straight to a finished first draft. For some reason, it’s difficult to get one foot in front of the other and move forward. Instead I’m flailing about, kicking up the dust but failing to leave it behind.
Part of it is, I think, due to those residual brush strokes. It’s like, all of this layering has gone on too long, and there are still areas of blank canvas I need to fill in, but there’s no point in filling in the gaps freestyle: I may as well wait until I know what I want the bigger picture to be.
To say I like roller derby is kind of like saying Bukowski liked a drink. I fucking love roller derby. I love the thrill of a tense jam, the unanimous roar when a badass player gets back on the track after a stint in the penalty box, the crunch of a hardcore blocker, the foxy slyness of a tricksy jammer. I even love drinking from those overpriced plastic bottles of Carlsburg. In an interview with Pank, I was asked what my derby name would be. Unfortunately, like Pash from the derby film Whip It, I went through a “fat girl reads a book” phase and not a skating phase, so it’s unlikely I’ll ever take to skates myself, but it would be Charlie Bukkaki. I know you didn’t ask, but I spent ages thinking it up so…
Anyway, imagine my delight when I discovered one of my favourite bookish webzines For Books’ Sake is collaborating with the London Rollergirls to curate an anthology of derby-themed fiction. I know. I can’t fucking believe it either. It’s like Christmas, my birthday, a massive orgasm and a bucket load of frozen strawberry margarita-flavoured love stuck in a roller skate and rolled straight into my pants.
Website: For Books’ Sake Derby-Themed Anthology.
Deadline: midnight on Sunday 28th October 2012.
Word count: up to 5k.
Prize: Publication, glory, my eternal respect.
Judges: For Books’ Sake Team and the London Rollergirls.
Results: Early 2013
Here are some useful derby links for those that don’t have a fucking clue what I’m on about:
Roller Derby UK official website.
London Rollergirls – What Is Roller Derby? (Rules and shit).
This is Roller Derby – 30 minute documentary on the magic of the track, including the briefest of brief overviews of the history and rules as well as a look into modern derby and what it means to those involved.
Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track by Melissa Joulwan – Great book on the history of roller derby.
Or, lazy bitches can just watch Whip It (FYI, it’s rad), although banked track has slightly different rules to flat track, which is more my jam.
I recently got a short memoir called “and I will only drink drinks that are red like blood” published by Smoke: A London Peculiar. I wouldn’t normally boast about such things around here (that’s what the About page is for, after all) but Smoke are still patiently waiting for more submissions for their proposed anthology: “Night Bus to Camden: A Peculiar History of London’s Music Venues.” They’re looking for memoirs relating to old gig venues of yore around the Big Smoke. Mine is set in the early Noughties, and heavily inspired by The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly, the music of Rachel Stamp and pints of scummy snakebite and bloack. You can be as recent as you like, as long as the venue is central to the plot. Looks like an awesome idea for an anthology, so I hope the number of submissions picks up. (*cough* fucking write something *cough*).
A few months ago I updated this neglected blog with the exciting news that Costa were planning to add a short story competition to their annual book awards. Well, the competition officially opened today for entries so I’m celebrating by telling you about it. I know. I have’t been this happy since the month I got four personal rejections in a row (a personal best). It also appears that the nice people at Costa aren’t charging an entry fee, so however tightly stretched your budget is right now, you can still afford to enter. It’s beautiful, really. Anyway, the dirty deets have finally landed, and are as follows:
Website: Costa Book Awards
Deadline: 4pm on Friday 7th September
Word count: up to 4k.
Prize: £3,500; £750 for two runners up.
Judges: Richard Beard, Fanny Blake, Victoria Hislop, Gary Kemp (yeah, as in the guy from Spandau Ballet. I have no idea why either) and Simon Trewin.
Results: A shortlist of six entries will be announced in November 2012, with the overall winner revealed at the Costa Book Awards ceremony on January 29th, 2013.
So, I know the book on everyone’s lips right now is the new Jeanette Winterston, but I want to talk about a seldom-discussed title by the name of 50 Shades of Grey. All right, enough being cute, but no one who’s read it seems to actually like it, so fuck knows what’s going on there. I just thought I’d spread this cracking review by a Waterstones bookseller, which I think I got more enjoyment from than I would from the book itself.
Also, whilst we’re talking about amazing writing in an unexpected place, this review of a Diva Cup on Amazon has pretty much made my year.
Read now, thank me later.
The nice people at The Fiction Desk cracked out a great little how-to guide for writing those pesky author bios which I highly recommend you have a gander at for some wholesome advice. The Fiction Desk – are you ready for this – actually pay monies for words. Up to £30 for each short story they publish, so it might be worth grabbing the cheap Kindle version of their first anthology and see if your work could find a home with them.
Meanwhile, you have exactly two days to Tweet @ShortStoryForum with a synopsis and link to your published short stories (or your favourites from the web) for a chance to be crowned Queen of the Short Story (or maybe it was just a couple of books – I’m hazy on the details) on National Short Story Day aka Thursday to the plebs. Additionally, you can try your hand at Tweeting a <10 story with the #ShortStoryDay hashtag for the chance to win the rarest jewel of all: internet kudos.