Sunday, March 23, 2008

Not a journey wasted

I'm still recovering from my trip to London. Not physically but mentally.
Meeting other bloggers - other writers - turned out to be quite a profound experience. I've never met a writer in the flesh before, in literary terms I've lived my life in a vacuum. Sitting in the pub surrounded by a covey of writers and performers I felt a bit like an atheist attending a church service, a rather disreputable interloper. I wished I had their faith in art. I wished I shared their humanity. I returned home more than ever convinced of my own shortcomings, both as a writer and a human being.

A couple of conversations after the performances confirmed what I had already begun to suspect. My new novel - a work in progress called Mummy's Boy - is no good. It doesn't work on any level but in particular the voice - that of a five-to-eleven year old boy - is woefully inauthentic. It's funny, because the book is more or less a straightforward transcription of events that happened to me at that age, events that are still vivid and abiding. That's really the problem of course.

Actually, I'd begun previously to mistrust the book for other reasons. It was in danger of turning into a "misery memoir", a sub-genre I despise. Nor was the writing of it stretching me in any way, other than testing my powers of recall. It didn't feel like a novel at all. It wasn't breaking any new ground. It was, in truth, something of a nostalgic wallow.

I've decided to abandon the book. I'll leave it up on the blog as a potentially interesting failed experiment, an online footnote marking the rubbish bin of my writing ambitions. Naturally I feel pretty gutted but it's not the first blind alley I've ever been down and I don't expect it will be the last.

A week ago, to mark the demise of this work in progress, I went out and bought myself a new laptop, well, a very dinky notebook actually. And then I started work on a new book. This one's meant to be funny and is actually entirely fictitious which must be a good thing in something that purports to be a novel. The trick of it will be to make it serious enough to make the humour work. I'm not sure if I will repeat the experiment of publishing it online as I go. The only reason for doing so would be to get some feedback - but right now I feel like it's best simply to plough my own furrow and see where it takes me.

Oh, the idea for the book came from one of my conversations in the pub with one of the writers. So it certainly wasn't a wasted journey. The very opposite in fact.

It's always nice to meet other writers. Maybe I'll do it again sometime. Perhaps when I've finished the new book and earned my credentials.

4 comments:

  1. How-do, Mister. I'm sort of glad you're writing a funny one. I think it'll be ace. I think you'll still be able to draw on some of these more miserable memories in such a way as to write something more 'authentically' in your writing voice now. Also I definitely agree over keeping it to yourself. My second one's not leaving my laptop 'til it's actually done -- too many people've seen rubbishy versions of something I've tweaked and tweaked and tweaked, and it makes me nervy about them seeing the final thing.

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  2. You have earned your credentials, Bill. Nostalgic wallows are good practice but if you write the next one with anything like your blog writing voice we will all be in for a treat.

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  3. Yay to wot Minxy said ...

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  4. Thanks, guys, your kind words are much appreciated.

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