Tag: inner demons

Resolutions revisited

Well, 2016 was quite a year, and many others have summed up its highs and lows better than I ever could. So rather than weep about the state of the world I thought I'd take this opportunity to review my New Year's Resolutions from January 2016 and set some new ones for the year ahead. My first two resolutions from last year were to work through the teetering pile of books beside my bed and buy books from independent bookshops or direct from the publishers I’ve certainly read a lot of books this year, although there’s still a pile by my bed and this is constantly refreshed with new books. I'm still in a book group, which nudges me to read books I might otherwise miss. At some point I should do a post about my favourite books of this year, but for now let’s just say I loved Laura Lipman's Wilde…

The rules of speculative fiction

Photo: Taiyo FUJII I haven't written a blog post for the last couple of weeks - I've had my head down responding to line edits on the manuscript of Baby X. Overall it's been an affirming process - I like it when my editor says ‘Alex wouldn't say that’: it encourages me that the character's voices are real enough for her to hear when I slip up. I’m discovering that I use a lot of commas, more than are strictly necessary. It turns out that just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about punctuation there’s this whole other level (like working your way up to a black belt in karate, and suddenly discovering the Dan system.) And there's the (occasional) joy of seeing an entire page without any changes or comments, and breathing a sigh of relief. My editor is also asking questions about the text, reminding me that just because something seems obvious to me,…

The courage to go to dark places

Image: courtesy of Jessica Shirley A couple of years ago I wrote the first draft of a novel called He, She, It.  It's a dark book, touching on dangerous and complicated themes, but looking back at it now, I realise I didn't quite have the courage to let it be dark or dangerous enough. For example, there's one scene where my fifteen-year old protagonist encounters a predatory adult in a position of power.  Anna escapes unharmed, and tells her Mum, who acts impeccably: she immediately believes her daughter's account of events, and acts strongly to protect her. I found it very upsetting to write that scene: I was shaking as I typed, and I cried a lot afterwards. At the time, the only way I could cope with the feelings it triggered in me was by making the Mum swoop in immediately and save Anna.  I had to put an end to the…

Criticism as crime scene

Photo: Tony Webster Even when criticism comes from someone you trust and respect, someone who has your best interests as a writer at heart, and who's guided you well in the past, it's hard not to have an immediate, emotional reaction. You've worked hard on creating something, and now it's been trashed and trampled.  The dismay and 'Oh God, what now?!' is reminiscent of discovering a burglary. Of course, the critic is not a criminal. She's doing her job, she's helping you make the book better. But still. I've recently been reading The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin. Levitin, a neuroscientist, explains the human brain is hardwired to organise information - the world around us - into categories. By harnessing our innate powers of categorisation, and externalising the complex contents of our brains (into systems, lists, notebooks, spreadsheets) we free ourselves up to do the important work of creative thinking: making connections, generating…

How it’s really going when you ask me how it’s going

Friends and family members have been asking me how it's going with the rewrite.  Which is sweet of you.  I'm grateful for your interest, sincerely I am. Only, what mostly happens is I look shifty, and say 'Erm, you know.'  And look at the floor.  Then I make something up, something I think sounds like a reasonable response. The thing is, when I first set up this site I promised (myself mostly) I'd blog about rewriting and publishing a novel.  So in the spirit of that original promise, this is how it's going. Some background:  I wrote the first draft of this book almost a decade ago, and I was a different person then.  It's not that I'm no longer interested in the themes - I am, very - but my opinion on these themes has become, if not different exactly, at least more nuanced. The impulse to write this story came from something inside me I was trying to understand.  I…