Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A quick one while he's away

Hello. I know, it's been a while. I've been busy. 53,418 words of busy so far. I've not actually finished the novel yet, so I still have that to deal with. But I took a break to write a 500-word bit of flash fiction. I'm just a giver, aren't I? Enjoy:

The Ballad of Dyspeptic Willie Madison

Dyspeptic Willie Madison was born under a bad sign. It read, “Ten Items or Less.” His unusual birthplace was down to his mother’s desire to get a year’s supply of baby supplies by giving birth in the supermarket. Tesco lived up to their promise, but his mother was less than happy. She’d been planning to visit Waitrose later that same day.

She didn’t give him that name, of course. That came from his time as the king of the bluesmen. After all, no-one in the delta would have taken him seriously with the name Craig Biggins. Apparently, according to the Blues Academy, your handle had to include a physical infirmity and refer to at least one US President. Dyspepsia was simply the next on the list. At least he wasn’t Syphilitic Bubba Washington.

His fame came easily enough. He had the blues and wanted people to know about them. He had a ready-made audience, hungry to hear what he had to say. A poet for the disaffected generation, Willie sang out loud and clear about the human condition. His first single, “Milk Carton Blues,” spoke of the frustrations of modern life.

Before too long, anyone who knew anything was name-checking Dyspeptic Willie Madison. His fame was rapidly followed by fortune. The houses, the cars. Life was good. Until the day he received a visitor.

“I am the Blues Angel,” said the mysterious stranger. “My name is unimportant, although you can refer to me as Hooch.”

“Hooch?” said Madison, reaching for the next bottle of Bollinger.

“You can blame Muddy Waters. Now then, Madison, I’ve come to talk to you about your life.”

“Things are going great, Hooch. Look, I’ve got everything I need.”

“Yes. You see, that’s the problem. You’re meant to be a bluesman. Your life is meant to be one long struggle. You get the blues, it runs your life, man. Your woman should do you wrong. The boss should be on your hide every day. Look at you – it just ain’t right.”

“What do you mean?”

“Robert Johnson fought a long battle with his demons,” he said, his lip curling with disgust. “The only conflict you have is with the Planning Committee of Solihull Borough Council.”

“But they won’t let me build an orangery.”

“Enough of this. If you want to sing the blues, you need to feel some loss. I’m here to make things right.”

“But how?” asked Madison, his eyes widening.

“Just you leave it to me.” The angel clicked his long fingers.

The crystal flute of champagne dissolved from Madison’s fingers. As he stared, his designer clothes were replaced by beat-up denim. With a loud rumble, the walls around him started to crumble and fall. In seconds, there was nothing but expensive-looking rubble. Moments later, even this had faded away.

“You weren’t kidding,” said Madison.“I ain’t finished yet,” said the angel, pushing an old guitar into his hands. “Right,” he said. “Now you’ve really got the blues. Don’t you ever forget it.”

Monday, 7 November 2011

I've got blisters on my fingers

As far as I know, Hemingway didn't slice open the tip of his index finger one day into writing For Whom the Bell Tolls. Tolkien was not pleasantly distracted from his tales of Middle Earth by the people next door inviting him over for a beer or two. And Terry Pratchett, as far as I can reasonably tell, doesn't have to write about mortgages between the hours of nine and five to keep the (non-literal) wolf from the door.

With that in mind, to find myself 20,000 words in after six whole days of NaNoWriMo is quite remarkable.I'm ahead by about 10,000, which you think would give me some sense of smug satisfaction. It's a breeze, this writing malarkey, isn't it? Don't know what the fuss was about.

Repeat after me: don't you believe it.

This has been quite tough. Tough to set the time aside. Tough to motivate myself to sit in front of a screen and conjure up the words. Tough to make it through some of the scenes I've been writing. Which doesn't bode well for the finished article, does it?

The hardest part for me so far has been the whole concept of the dash to the finish line. Although you wouldn't know it to read this, I tend to like to go back and edit things. I can worry about a sentence until a well-known cliche takes place. (The original version of that last bit had cows coming home. See what I mean?)

But with NaNoWriMo the main intention is to get your story told, and get it done with a minimum of 50,000 words in the month. You don't 'win' by having 8,000 wonderfully crafted words. Mind you, it would be a failure if I provided the requisite 50,000 words but hadn't finished the story. You can't have a beginning, middle and fade to chorus. There does need to be an ending - I can't just write "And they all lived happily ever after" once I get to 49,993. Especially if we happen to be in the middle of a fight scene at the time.

So it really is a case of 'don't edit, just create'. Occasionally I'll look back at something I've written and a flush of embarrassment comes over me. Surely I can just spend a few minutes polishing that terrible bit of dialogue? No. For that way lies madness. Well, until 1 December, anyway.

In sponsorship terms, things are going well. I'm up to £200 at the moment, which, at 40% of my target, matches the word count quite well. One triumph this morning; national journalist Stuart Heritage wrote a very funny (and only slightly cruel) piece about NaNoWriMo on his LuvHat blog. If you're not too precious about the whole endeavour, it's great. If you are precious about it, well, don't read it. I contacted him on Twitter about it, to make the point that there's at least one crappy novel being produced for a good cause. Credit to him, not only did he respond, he also put his hand in his pocket and donated, then tweeted the JustGiving link to his 10,000 followers.

You might be even be one of them. Hello. Please excuse me, I need to go and write 30,000 words with only nine fully-functioning digits.


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