February Malaise, And A Writer’s Issue

I haven’t posted anything for a while. The cold continues, along with the grey and the general malaise associated with this time of year. The British public longs for spring. I certainly do.

I’ve continued reworking the draft of my novel, a psychological thriller set in the north of the country. As I’ve said in previous posts, tightening sections of the story can improve the narrative; however, it can also create issues. Perhaps in the rewriting, some of the original spirit of the story vanishes.

A common problem.

The solution, then, is to take a break of a few weeks, read the amended sections, place asterisks by the sections that require further attention, then consider adding some of the original writing by these asterisks sentences.

Worth a try, anyway, in my opinion.

Just a few of my thoughts.

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The Storm

Back to gloomy autumn weather and a wait to hear news on the latest novel, a psychological thriller.

Talking of which…after high temperatures and a late summer, the weather suddenly changed. I woke up at around 3am on Thursday, aware of the steady thud of rain outside. Lightning flickered, causing the clock radio to crackle. Thunder roared close by.

Generally, I like storms, but I lay there unsettled, thinking of another storm that took place when I was a child, maybe five or six years old. When that storm occurred, I fled from the bedroom, convinced that the house was haunted and that the ghosts were pursuing me. Obviously, I have no idea whether the house was really haunted. However, from time to time, I’ve found certain places or atmospheres disquieting right from the start, and still do occasionally. So I suppose I must believe in the possibility of hauntings and ghosts, although the whole thing scares me.

Anyway, I think the above would do well in a psychological thriller.

Bank Holiday Monday, And A Novel

I’ve finished the writing for the time being and hope to put it aside, in order to gain a fresh perspective. In the meantime, Bank Holiday Monday beckons, hopefully warm and sunny.   As the novel, a psychological thriller, explores the events of a Bank Holiday Monday in the central character’s past, I thought I would include the opening in this blog article:

They say a group of teenagers saw me on the field that August Bank Holiday Monday.

One called over, asked if I was all right. I didn’t answer, apparently. Just continued stumbling in the direction of home, sweat dripping from my face. The teenagers didn’t hang around. They assumed I had sunstroke. If I had seen myself, I would have probably thought the same.

Others noticed me wandering along the main road towards the estate where we lived. Drinkers in the pub watched me stagger like a drunk. I continued walking. Up the hill, through a ginnel, past the church. Down the hill, along alleyways of back-to-front houses, to the car park at the bottom of the estate.

Dad was out with your dad that afternoon. They say your mother saw me and came out. ‘Where’s Craig?’ she said. ‘What happened, Alan?’

They say I muttered two words.

A name.

***

A man went to prison.

A local.

End of story.

So I thought.

The Psychological Thriller

Clammy, sticky weather, and I’m ploughing on with the novel, making the changes needed to strengthen the story. A psychological thriller. It’s hard.  A fresh twist in the plot increase the tension, but often at a cost, as each alteration affects the rest of the story and errors creep in, usually unnoticed.

I’ve also observed that ruthlessly cutting superfluous sentences – for instance, 100 words here, 50 words there – will tighten the prose, but might result in the loss of the writer’s unique voice. The story may take on a racy-pace, but lack originality.

For me, psychological thrillers must create an atmosphere (preferably portrayed through a first person narrative) that the reader relates to, even if their own experience differs from that of the main character. The atmosphere determines the plot, I believe, although this runs counter to the general advice that plot should be character-led.  Perhaps there is room for both then – atmosphere and character actions?

Let’s hope so.

In the meantime, I have another fifty-five thousands words to deal with.

Creative Writing, Transforming Stale Sections

Often, writers struggle with sections of their work. Parts of the writing may become stale while remaining relevant to the story – problematic, as the writer has to find alternative ways of presenting this material. Other sections of the writing might lack any function in the story, in which case the writer can hit delete.

I had to deal with a stale writing issue recently. I chose to remedy the problem by turning the chunk of crucial information into dialogue. It meant that I needed to pay close attention to the voicing and the interactions between the two characters. Inevitably, slight errors crept into the work – ruthless editing and rewriting will do that – but I caught these on a reread.

When revising a sample of writing, I try to look out for two things.

Original voicing that exposes more of the character in question.

A way of advancing plot and/or atmosphere, including immediacy (especially for psychological thrillers, my genre).

Sometimes, I need to cut back, a case of less is better. At other times, I need more. On occasion, I will read the amended sections and decide they’ve made the story worse. I think this happens a lot during the writing process. A writer implements an idea or change of plot and it knocks the rest of the story off balance. Writing’s always a gamble; yet, unless the writer takes a risk, she or he will never know what works or doesn’t work.

Just a few of my thoughts.

A Muggy Spring

After a grey winter, sunshine finally came and temperatures soared over the weekend, equalling those in exotic places abroad. Since then, the greyness has returned, along with rain and an overcast sky, creating a muggy atmosphere. No one knows what to wear.

As for me, I’ve been polishing another manuscript, a psychological thriller, and trying to focus only on what the central characters wishes to tell the reader. The whole writing process (that includes the writing itself, revisions, feedback from an editor or agent) seems to take for ever, and at times, I question whether it’s worth it. Obviously, it must be, otherwise I would have quitted several years ago.

Apart from that, little else has happened.  I continue my languages studies and have sold more CDs of my piano playing.  Everything feels a bit grey and muggy at the moment, like the weather.

 

 

Another Fortnight, So Much To Do…

Yes, definitely feeling the pressure. A couple of weeks have gone by since I last posted an article here, and I’ve found little time to keep up the blog. At present, I’m focusing on my music career, learning several languages, and reworking a novel, a psychological thriller – i.e. trying to balance a tightly controlled narrative (action) with events occurring solely in the character’s mind (paranoia angle). Pretty difficult.

Hope to be back soon.

Writing Fiction: A Mundane Task?

I would never describe creative writing as mundane, as if something’s mundane, it can’t possibly be creative.  The word task doesn’t feel right either. However, a larger creative writing project, like a novel, requires a great deal of revision and pruning, and these processes sometimes become tiring and mundane.

I’m at the polishing stage in my current novel, a psychological thriller. Making minor adjustments. Removing redundancies. Making sure dialogue remains true to the character viewpoint.  At times, I miss the simplicity of story telling – i.e. writing a piece from scratch and seeing where the writing takes me.  Maybe, at some point in the future, I will get the chance to start a new novel.

In the meantime, till next time.

 

 

The Novel: Halfway Through The Polished Redraft

Sounds incredible, but after six and a half weeks of making alterations, I’ve reached the halfway point of the story, a psychological thriller set in Lancashire.  Clearly, I’ve been at this point before – several times, in fact – and anything can happen from here.

One of the difficulties lies in getting the plot just right.  The question of tweaking.  Ruthless editing. As I’ve stated before, toning down an idea doesn’t always help. Life’s full of complexities, of people reacting under pressure and making choices that often bring about unwanted consequences.  No one’s perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes. In thrillers, characters often inadvertently invite some of the danger that follows, often subconsciously. Tweaking to reduce complexity robs the story of its true nature.

The solution, I think, rests in hinting at the unexpected story strands at earlier points in the manuscript, so that when the denouement comes, it appears as the only possible outcome to the mounting dramatic climb.

Complicated.

January will mark my seventh year of blogging at WordPress, so let’s hope 2016 is a good year all round.

_____

Meanwhile, my two novels are available from Amazon in paperback and e-book.

Check out the reviews for Secrets by Lawrence Estrey.

Newspaper article on author.

EggHead by Lawrence Estrey: Questions And Answers

EggHead reviews