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Posts Tagged ‘the novel’

So …

I’ve hit something of a brick wall.   Ideas are bubbling around for the internet project, which is nice, but the novel keeps running into blind alleys … where it proceeds to assault itself, steal all its own money and then make off into the dark.  The internet project is going to be a mix of vlogs and blogs, allowing readers/viewers to get the kind of sense of each characters’ inner state that can only usually be found in novels.  As the vlogs/blogs won’t be explicitly linked from the beginning, it will be possible for readers/viewers to find their own way through the story.  I suppose it’s a modern take on those Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks from the 80s, with their “Do you attack the troll?  Turn to page 10 for yes, Page 118 for no” … only without the page turning, or, indeed, trolls.

The book on the other hand is beginning to really annoy me.  As I explained before, it began life as a treatment for a  TV series (NB series not serial – although it had an overall story arc, most episodes would have been self-contained).  As such I could get away with a general indication of location, characters and some hint of a story arc without having to go into too much detail.  To pitch a novel (or, indeed, a series of novels) I’m going to need a much more detailed outline of the plot … and every time I think I’ve got things roughly in order I find a character popping up in the wrong place.  At present he keeps doing the equivalent of  Sidney Carton deciding to run off with Lucie Manette rather than sacrifice himself on the gallows at the end of A Tale of Two Cities.  As he’s my favourite character, as well as being the vector for the underlying thesis of the story (which is a potentially rather pretentious plea for rationality), this is causing me all sorts of trouble.

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So, where were we?  Ah yes, work was proceeding “but not necessarily apace”.  Actually, that’s a little unfair – writing is proceeding slowly but preparing to write is actually beginning to come together.  Reading around a subject is always the writer’s best friend and let no one tell you otherwise.  For one thing, it’s a great way of not having to put anything down on paper (at least nothing beyond a few scribbled notes), which is always desirable, but it also sets off surprising new avenues of thought.  At the moment I’m using the quite extraordinary The Secret Commonwealth by Robert Kirk as my background reading.  Its author was a Scottish Episcopalian minister in the late seventeenth century who appears to have genuinely believed in the sprites, spirits, elves, brownies and other creatures of which local legend spoke.  The book itself is a brief treatise on the nature and habits of these creatures as revealed to Kirk by tales and by some of those among his flock whom he understood to be possessed of “second sight”.  In transforming folk tales and fairy stories into a “serious” (if wholly unbelievable) work, Kirk lifts the various beasts and boggarts into a brand new realm.  His insistence on the existence of parallel realms, of human reality and the “reality” of The Secret Commonwealth of the fey, is exactly the device I was planning to work with in the novel and his explanation of the relations between the two should prove very useful.

Although Kirk’s own story is not the one I’m currently writing there is definitely something there that I might want to write about in futuree especially as local tales held that he was struck down by the little people themselves and he reappeared in spirit form on at least two occasions.  In any event, his book has given me a neat plot twist which has resolved some difficulties I was having with the last section of my story, so I certainly owe him something.

And now a quick aside: when I popped around the corner to the organic food shop (great, reasonably priced local produce plus wholly ridiculous rock crystal candles, reiki sessions and homeopathic remedies) I discovered that one of the assortment of oversized-4×4-armour-plated-pram pushers who were clogging up the place had “Duelling Banjos” as their ringtone.  It may just be because I watched Deliverance fairly recently but I did find that rather disturbing.

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So today was spent working on the new version of the trailer for the web channel I work on.   Obviously I thoroughly resented having to come up with something new after spending a day on the project but I must admit I probably prefer the new version to the old one.  For one thing it is a lot simpler to film, which gives half a chance of the final project resembling what I envisaged when I wrote out.  I still bear the scars from a radio sketch I wrote many years ago: it was supposed to open like an old Universal horror movie – wind, rain, the crash of thunder, the creaking of a massive and ancient door, the sepulchral sounds of an organ echoing among the buildings ancient stones – but when I tuned in to hear it  I got the pitter-patter of a light shower, a squeaky hinge and the sound of a Stylophone, from there on in the sketch lacked a certain something, to my ears at least.

With that job out of the way (barring re-writes) and a bunch of sample sketches ready to head off to a “major independent comedy production company”, it looks like I’ve managed to get the deadlines I mentioned last week out of the way.  This means on the one hand that I have no immediate revenue streams in site but on the other that I have room to crack on with those other projects I mentioned.  Indeed, I’ve got some additional motivation in that area as my agent has asked me to knock out a chapter of “the novel” for her to pass on to a literary agent.  I find this both thrilling and intimidating.  The novel is dear to my heart, coming as it does from a project I’ve long had in mind and which my old agent dismissed out of hand (after making me produce three, increasingly lengthy, treatments for it over a period of some 9 months) – thus if I can get any success out of it I have the double benefit of it being one in the eye for my former agent.  This may seem petty but, given that the last time I saw her she wandered up to me at a party and called me a complete shit for having had a play commissioned by Radio 3 shortly after dispensing with her services, I think I can be allowed a bit of pettiness.

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So, what are the projects that I need to get out of the way this year?

Well, first up come the items with deadlines.  Whatever anyone else may try to tell you, deadlines are wonderful things.  Deadlines mean you have to get the work done by a certain time.  Usually, the existence of a deadline also implies that you are being paid to get the work done by a certain time.   Together, these factors usually mean that the work will get done.  In my case, unfortunately, only one deadline is for work that I’m going to be paid for, in this case writing a promo sketch for a new web TV site.  It’s an interesting brief: I have one actor, one camera and one location (London’s South Bank) with which to suggest a vast internet news-gathering organisation with bases all over the globe.  Hmm.

The other deadline work is coming up with some comedy sketches for a children’s TV show.  Given that the show’s premise is very similar to one I’ve been trying to pitch for years, this should make things easily.  Unfortunately, given that I’ve been pitching the show for years, pretty much every relevant party has already seen the sketches I was planning for it … which means I’ll have to come up with a brand new set for this new show, preferably not stealing any of my old ideas at all.  Given that stealing one’s old ideas is so often a writer’s first temptation, this makes things a bit more challenging than usual.

Both the above have deadlines falling early next week and the kids’ show will need a bit of research before writing.  So will I be putting my other ideas on the back burner?  Let’s see.

And what are these other ideas?  Well, there being no copyright in an idea I’m not going to give anything away about their content but their forms are:

a) A children’s fantasy novel

b) A play

c) A sitcom

d) An idea for an internet drama

Of these (a) and (d) are probably the priorities.  In fact I’m resolving right now that I will produce something, anything on idea (a) every working day.  I hope you’ll hold me to it.

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