Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dabbles With Drabbles

Not so long ago I decided to turn my hand to the tricky art of the 'drabble'. For those who've never heard of such a thing (and not so long ago I was one of them), a drabble is a short-short story which is exactly 100 words long. Sounds easy, you say? Well, I tried it and it proved harder than I first thought. So hard, in fact, I only did it once. Thankfully, that single effort paid off and the resulting story, "A Dirty Job", appears in the newly-published issue of The Drabbler. This anthology of alien-themed drabbles, edited by Terry Leigh Relph, is available to buy at Sam’s Dot Publishers.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Lost Without Lost

The second series of Lost has just finished its initial run here in the UK, and once again I'm left feeling exasperated and thrilled in equal measure. The show's success is well-deserved. The programme-makers have expertly kept us enthralled for two series now, but I wonder how much longer they can keep this level of intrigue up. I love the show, but I've stopped watching a couple of times: once in the middle of series one and quite early on in series two. But I keep coming back. When the show first started I thought it was a mini-series. Hah! Mini! When it became clear that this show wasn't going to give up any of its secrets by the end of the first series my interest dropped off. But I came back to it because it so finely constructed, so entertaining. And it's got Evangeline Lilly in it, which is always a good reason to keep watching. Now I have to sit and stew for who knows how long, waiting for series three. Waiting for answers. If I was running the production I would be looking to wrap things up by the end of the third series. Then the show would go out on a big big high. But then, the American TV networks don't work like that. How many great US TV shows have been spoiled by that "one series too far"?
JJ Abrams said in a recent interview that they had an ending for Lost in place for the end of series two (I think), but the success of the show prompted a big rewrite and extension of the entire plot. Let's hope that ending is not too far off.

Monday, September 25, 2006

First Draft Complete

I've done it!

Tonight, after about an hour of writing, I was able to type 'THE END' on the last page of the manuscript. Lazarus Island has moved one significant step closer towards a full resurrection. I looked up the date that I started this story, and found - to my horror - that it was December 2003! Almost three years! Except, of course, I haven't been working on it for all that time. There was a period of about eighteen months where I wasn't even thinking about it, when it had been dumped unceremoniously in the metaphorical 'sock drawer' on my PC. But here I am, excited at having reached this milestone. There is a lot to do on the second draft - and I mean, a lot. But the bare bones of Lazarus have been laid down. The second draft is hopefully when it really comes to life.
In his book Plot, Ansen Dibell says: '...keep writing away until you have one whole first draft done. Then go ahead and start the kind of invention, addition, and deletion only possible in solid second-draft writing.'

Another exciting aspect about the point I'm at right now is that, for the first time in my life, I don't know what I'm going to write next. I've always been plagued in the past by too many ideas, and have always ended up jumping from one new idea to the next and never finishing any of them. Things have changed. By choice or by circumstance, I've managed to focus my energies on one story, one novel. And that focus has paid off so far. Yes, I've got a couple of inklings for my second novel, but that's all they are at the moment - inklings. Part of me would like to keep it that way until I've fully completed Lazarus Island, second draft and beyond. But the other part of me - the writer - needs to be producing new material. It's always advised to leave a novel after the initial draft, to work on something else for a while so that the dust surrounding the first novel can settle. That's the plan.
But I'm excited. Very excited. And I can't wait to see what the future brings.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Lazarus Island reached the exciting milestone of fifty thousand words tonight. I estimate that the first draft will come in at about sixty thousand, possibly a bit more, with some heavy fleshing out to be done on the second draft. Sadly, I'm only able to write at the weekends at the moment. I would probably have finished it by now if I was able to write when I wanted to write. But isn't that always the case? I'm reminded of the story about Tolkien who famously complained all his working life that he wished he had more time to write, only to find after retirement from his day job that he spent most of his newfound freedom sitting in his study playing Patience.
Anyhow, Lazarus Island is shaping up to be something quite extraordinary, at least in my humble opinion. It's ironic that I wrote the first half of this novel about two years ago, then abandoned it for some unknown reason. I then spent those two intervening years trying several other novel ideas in different styles and genres, all unsuccessful, all coming to nothing. In all that time, Lazarus Island never went away. The story wouldn't die, one could say. It remained alive and vibrant in my mind. I look at it now and see that it is absolutely the perfect story, the perfect first novel, for me to write. It encapsulates so much of my own personal philosophy and sensibility that I can't believe I left it on the shelf for so long. I simply must finish it. I don't want to get all heavy here (God forbid!), but one of the most fascinating ideas raised in Stephen King's Dark Tower series is that a writer doesn't 'make up' stories - the stories seek out the author and demand to be told through them. It's a very romantic concept, but one which certainly makes me think sometimes: Who's controlling the pen here? Where did that (character/sub-plot/twist) come from? What are those whispering voices I hear in the dead of night?
Hmmm... anyone know a good psychiatrist?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Four little hours

Stephen King has a very simple formula for learning to write well: "Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can't expect to become a good writer."

I'm currently reading Misery (which, you may be interested to know, was intended to be a Richard Bachman novel until the whole Bachman/King thing was uncovered) and I'm finding it hard not to see Kathy Bates in my mind as Annie Wilkes. I've only ever seen the film adaptation once on its initial release, and whilst it is one of the best King movie adaptations, I prefer to enjoy King's books without preconceived images of characters or scenes. Unfortunately, Kathy Bates's association with the role is so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness that it's hard to shake off. Never mind.
I'm also reading James Herbert's The Fog and finding a world of difference between the styles of Herbert and King, not least in the level of characterisation - 'nuff said.