Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dems fighting words...

As some of my fellow scribes will certain attest to, there is one thing that I love doing more than actual writing. Talking about Writing. I do. A lot.

I'm no different from the rest of the world, really. We all have something we're passionate about and we'll talk passionately about it at any opportunity. This is something I learned when researching for Burning Matches . Chefs talk food, climbers talk climbing and pathologists talk, yes you guessed it, pathology. (What the hell is this book about? I hear you ask.) And so, by the same rational, I talk writing.

And now, lo and behold, I have found a place, a controlled environment so-to-speak, where I can talk and people listen! I am, in fact, referring to Fighting Words, the creative writing centre in Russell Street, Dublin 1. It was set up by Roddy Doyle and Sean Love to give everyone a place to go to write and to help students develop their writing skills. It was inspired by 826 Valencia, a similar centre in San Francisco.
Fighting Words provide story-telling fieldtrips for Primary school groups, creative writing workshops for secondary students, and seminars, workshops and tutoring for adults. All tutoring is free.

I'm involved in the secondary student workshops, which start with a brainstorming session in which all aspects of creative writing (plot, character, dialogue etc) are discussed between the group. After that, the students have an opportunity to work on their writing and the volunteers (that's me) are available to offer guidance, answer questions and help the writers create their masterpieces!

I've been to two sessions so far and I'm going back for more next week. Tiz great fun!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Universe Expandeth...

I am simply referring to Paul_The_Writer's writing universe of all-things-writing, not the, yeh know, actual universe. It might have expanded too, I suppose, but I am so self-involved these days that it's likely I wouldn't have noticed. I didn't even realise that Ireland's politico had it's own little melt-down yesterday until my fellow writerbloggertweeter MSD told me about it.

Speaking of melt-downs, I had one myself this week. (See? I can even take the imminent destruction of our government and make it about me). But, yes, I did have a melt-down.

I should have seen it coming, I suppose. Having started my second novel after Christmas, and telling anyone who asked that I was inspired, motivated, even excited about writing it, how many chapters have I written thus far?
Yes, that's right. No need to adjust your set. One.

And I know why. Because I'm not inspired, motivated or excited about it. Not even a little bit. I like the story, I'm pretty sure it works and, without doubt, it will be an easier book to write than its predecessor. But that's as enthusiastic as I can get.

But in the spirit of that whole 'closing-a-door-opening-a-window' thing, I discovered (during one of my many moments of procrastiation) that I have a interesting date in my diary. March 11th.
March 11th is the deadline for the Verity Margate Award. Soho Theatre are looking for a new play that will stand out from the crowd. 'The only limit is your imagination'...apparently.

Yes I know, what do I know about writing for the stage? Well do I have an idea for a play? Thank god, yes. First hurdle.

Technically, I probably don't know much, but I've seen enough theatre to know the basic rules and I hope that if I apply my own 'process' (there he goes talking about that shit again), the rest will fall into place...with the help of my wide circle of fabulous writing friends and the few thespian-types that I know (CS, you reading this?).

And the most important word in that paragraph? 'Deadline'. I realised that that's what I need right now. Writing a novel (or anything) for publication on some indistinct far-off date doesn't exactly lend itself to being desk-side by nine, does it?

So, huge sigh of relief right now - I know what I'm doing...until I change my mind tomorrow, that is.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You don't have to follow me. You don't have to follow anybody!

Denis Lehane, Aaron Sorkin, Tony Jordan...yes you guessed it, some of my writing heroes. But do I really want to know what's going on inside their heads?

The knee-jerk response will of course be 'Yes of course you should'. They have been doing this forever and have managed to make a very successful career of it, so anything they have learned, discovered or invented to make me a good write should be noted and copied with immediate effect. And thanks to Facebook (somewhat), Twitter (big-time) and now websites like, the brains of these behemoths could not be more accessible.

There are two reasons why knowing the processes of other writers, whether you bow to their superior talent or not, is not such a good idea. The first one comes via Monty Python, or more specifically Brian - 'We are all different.' A truism, I will admit, but it is valid. Basically, if I wrote the way a certain horror writer (initials SK) does, I would get nothing done. Not a jot. Because he writes with classical music playing at Volume 11.
I would, first-of-all, spend most of my time recovering from the daily beating from my neighbours on the other side of the cardboard walls. But, more importantly, with any music on in the background, my concentration levels would be at minus-11. I have to have silence.
Irish romance novelist MB tells us that she does her best work in the pre-dawn hours. Me? Get out of bed while it's still dark? Give me a break.
Another successful novelist (the name currently escapes me) writes everything by pen in a notebook and later transcribe to print. No thanks. I need my laptop. I once scribbled a chapter in a notebook while drunk on an Arran island (I forget which one). I then duly forgot what I had written and lost the notebook. I'm still certain that it was the best thing I ever wrote.

Which leads me on to sunny point number two. And that is that I'm precious. I'll freely admit that. I have spent the last almost-three years (more like eight if you include my years as a part-timer) creating my own writing process out of a combination of circumstance, habit, technology-addiction, caffeine-addiction and procrastination. I'm not saying it's perfect or that it's etched in stone - it continues to be sculpted and honed on a daily basis - but it's mine.

So by all means, hero, write your next masterpiece by dictating while hanging upside-down in a door frame, but don't expect me to follow. I'll be too busy drinking a cappucino.