That Big Shiny Thing in the Sky

Not sure what happened but there was this huge, bright, shiny thing in the sky, which was strangely blue itself, over the weekend. I’m sure there was something other-worldly about it as it attracted me outside and away from any work on my novel.

Actually, this seems to be the worst thing about this time of year. I had great intentions about how much I could do this weekend but various things like the Grand National, the village horticultural show (at which my cheese straws got 20 out of 20 marks!!!) and the weather in general meant that I got sod all done in terms of words committed to paper/disk.  However,  I did a lot of thinking about novel writing. I have quite a lot now written in my head.

I watched the end of the South Bank Show Revisited where Melvyn Bragg went back to interview Ian McEwan on the occasion of his new novel ‘Solar’ being published and comparing it with an earlier interview from 1981. In the earlier interview, when he would have been around 33, McEwan came over as rather ostentatiously cerebral and pretty unlikeable — something he admitted himself now he’s mellowed into middle-age (61). He also turned up on an edition of The Book Show on Sky Arts with Mariella Frostrup that I got round to watching. It’s quite a good programme and features an impressive guest list of writers. Joanna Trollope was interviewed on the same programme (I was quite interested in this as someone on my course described my novel as a kind of male Joanna Trollope, which was compliment but made me wonder if describing it like that would make a publisher run a hundred miles).

There was an interesting discussion after a feature on Sally Vickers’ study (I have one of her books, ‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday, which was well-reviewed in the Economist but I’ve yet to read it). It’s not a tiny, dark, massively cluttered small space like mine which is barely possible to enter, let alone work in, but seemed huge and light with windows giving panoramic views overlooking most of London. Her method of writing was to get up in the morning and sit in her study, still in her night-dress and work until she thought she’d written enough and then get dressed and get on with the rest of her day: her logic being that she was more in touch with her  unconscious, creative side having just rolled out of bed. She also said she didn’t ever plan her books: she just started with a scene and wrote. Joanna Trollope was fascinated as her methods were exactly the opposite. She treated writing like going to work, having to get everything together and in order for the day before starting, and she is also a detailed planner. I guess the styles of the two writers reflect their different approaches. I think I’m more in the Trollope camp of planning and having an idea of where I want to go and also feeling like I need the discipline of deadlines, etc. However, when I can manage it, I do like getting up very early and writing. I think I tend to write more easily then and late at night, although this may be more to do with having less of the sort of distractions around that so displaced my efforts over the weekend.

A Useful Resource for Novelists?

“Most of the time I just lie there and make lists in my head. I grunt once in a while so he knows I’m awake, and then I tell him how great it was when it’s over.”

I was watching an old edition of The Book Show with Mariella Frostrup and they asked novelist Tony Parsons what was on his bedside table.  Among other books he said he found ‘Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivation from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)’ by  Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss to have been a fascinating and invaluable resource, particularly for a male novelist (and it’s not just about women it has plenty in there too about men).

I found this interesting review from The Guardian — which cites the above quotation from the book, which I thought might not be out of place in a novel.