Tag Archives: first draft

His longest minute

I’ve written this from the writing prompt over at Nostrovia Poetry: ‘Write a scene where the subject experiences the longest minute of their life.’ I haven’t written from a writing prompt before – I’m not sure that this entirely works but it was fun to give it a go. And it was a great way to get my ‘writing head’ on today…

Is this it?

A car sits in the road ahead,
Where it’s impossible for two vehicles to pass.
Dark grey paintwork,
Tinted windows,
Expensive looking.
Even up close,
He can’t see through the glass.

Is this it?
Is she in there?

For the longest moment,
The stillness,
Is like a word on the tip of his tongue,
And uncertainty is hung,
On tightly strung wire,
In the space,
Between fear and desire.
He holds his breath,
Shivering as he exhales,
Trying to remain calm,
Though anxiety is king here,
And it’s anxiety that prevails.

God damn,
Why aren’t they doing something?

A door opens,
A booted foot reaches out,
And feels for the tarmac.

Is this it?
Is this it?
Is she here?

A woman stumbles in the ocean (another excerpt from my 1st draft)

(And this where I share – and bring to life – one of the problems I face in trying to write an ‘accessible’ narrative in verse: how do I write the dialogue? If I make it fit with the more descriptive elements in the story then I think it becomes too unrealistic – however, if I make it too straight then it feels completely out of place. So far, it’s been a struggle and I definitely haven’t yet got it right. This is a short example of where I’m at. As with the other excerpts I’ve shared, this is only a first draft so who knows where it’ll go from here).

“Damn, those waves are stronger than you think,”
Says X, offering his hand.
“Here, let me help you up,
Before you sink,
In to the sand.”

“I’ll have you know that was entirely intentional,”
Says the woman,
Waving help away,
And climbing to her feet unaided.
“It may not be the most conventional,
Way of taking a dip,
But I’d highly recommend it.”
She brushes herself down,
And mini avalanches fall in clumps,
From her half sodden clothes.
“However, I thank you for unnecessarily attempting,
To be my saviour.
Most commendable behaviour,
For a complete stranger.
Speaking of which,
My name’s Esme.
Pleased to meet you.”

X shakes hands with this impressive force in woman form,
And though it would obviously be the norm,
For him to then offer his name,
He instead says, “Pleased to meet your acquaintance.
It’s just a shame,
We couldn’t have met in a drier circumstance.”

“My acquaintance?”
It’s half a yelp and half a whine,
“Have you arrived here from Victorian times?”

And there’s something about the way she pouts,
And the way the shock of red hair sprouts,
From the top of her feisty, pale face,
All blown out of place,
And flaming around her head,
That he just finds immediately adorable.
But he doesn’t say this out loud.
Instead, he just stares back,
Grinning,
Head spinning.
She interrupts his daydream stare:
“Hello? Is there anyone there?”

I’m heading off to a writing retreat… bliss

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I’m just about to leave to catch a train to not-so-sunny Devon for a writing retreat hosted by the excellent Urban Writers’ Retreat.

I did exactly the same last year (that’s when these photos were taken) and it was the thing that really kick-started my writing: three or four days with a few like-minded souls in the British countryside, with nothing to do but write and go for the odd walk.

I’m expecting to get a lot done, meet some lovely people and generally have a great time.

Wahoo!

This is how I (try to) write… or… This is what I do/what do you do?

 “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit”

– Ernest Hemmingway

Ernest there, telling it like it is. Everyone needs to find their own method for making it happen but one thing’s for sure: the more you write, the more chance you have of writing something of merit.

I always begin by reviewing my previous day’s efforts. I’m currently writing in free verse, which (apart from being a huge risk) takes me a little longer than writing prose – and so I probably don’t have as much to review as a lot of other writers would. However, I don’t do massive re-writes at this stage: I change the odd word and mainly just help myself to get back in to the flow of the story.

“Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day”

– Norman Mailer

Like everyone, I have good days and I have bad days. But I’ve learnt that, no matter which of those I’m living through, if I want to be a writer then I need to, you know, write. Not just talk and think about it. I’m not going to pretend… I don’t actually manage to write every single day but, if necessary, I force it even if I’m feeling uninspired and that there’s no point in my putting pen to paper.

And that’s another thing. For me, the first draft of anything is hand written. I find it a much more organic process that way… things just flow much more easily.

“Nothing magical. You just sit there and keep typing.”

– Stirling Silliphant

You keep writing and sometimes stuff happens. I started off writing screenplays (and I want to do more of that): I wrote a couple of short film scripts and was half way through a feature length script when something unexpected happened… I found a three-page synopsis I’d written a few years ago as the basis for another screenplay. It grabbed me all over again – this is what I wanted to write about – so I decided to write up a fuller version of the synopsis. And the words just started coming out in verse… all by themselves. Honestly, that’s the way it felt. And it’s turned in to the novel I’m writing at the moment. Whether it ends up working or not, whether it turns out to be a foolish experiment, it’s something that I completely believe in.

Anyways, that’s rambling ol’ me.

I’m always interested to hear about what other people go through to get the words out. Let me know if you feel like sharing…

Ancient room, ancient people (another excerpt from my 1st draft)

A butler with a stiff, flat face and long, black coat,
Who half shuffles and half floats,
Is waiting for the car as it stops at a grand front door,
And escorts Victor across a grand marble floor,
To the threshold of a room so grand,
It insists you stand,
To attention.

Despite it’s size,
The room is poorly lit.
17th Century dust hides,
In the shadows,
Of wood panelled corners,
And a solitary greek statue is a hermit,
Dreaming of battles and oceans,
A perfect specimen in milky stone,
Built for an empire,
Now standing alone.
The long-since-dead,
Sprawl in faded colours,
In ever-evolving poses,
Across the walls,
Witnesses to the slow decay around them,
Their expressions transparent,
Clearly appalled.

In the centre of this yester-world decoration,
Is an island,
Of three armchairs,
And a floor lamp,
That’s a glowing perforation,
In the gloom.
A frail couple are sitting,
Directing expectant stares,
Towards Victor.
Their slouched posture,
Is at odds with their formal dress,
But they say nothing,
Leaving Victor to guess,
That he should join them,
In the remaining seat.

 

Stressed about your writing? Here’s some soothing words from a Pulitzer Prize winner

“I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around: writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen.”

Jennifer Egan

Out cold (another excerpt from my 1st draft)

And then the others have to step back,
To avoid a collision,
As X topples forward,
Dissecting two stools with military precision.
Face down,
Smack.
His story only partly told,
And the mystery man already out cold,
His left cheek,
Stuck to the sticky beer floor,
Sticky beer coating his now sticky beer jaw.
“Oof,” says The Whiz Kid,
With an understated exhalation.
He looks round at the others,
Expecting further exclamation,
Yet all just stare without sound,
At the figure before them,
Crumpled,
Unconscious,
And stuck to the ground.

For the love of god, please just finish the first draft

or

It’s all about me (in which I don’t apologise for a ridiculous over-use of brackets and italics)

So here it is. I’ve started the blog. That’s Part 1 done.

Part 1: Begin a blog to share your work thereby ensuring that you absolutely must, no matter what, avoid procrastination and keep on writing

It’s a start. But here’s the thing… I’m still in the process of writing the first draft of my novel. That’s Part 2.

Part 2: For the love of god, please just finish the first draft

As Hemingway is famously alleged to have said: “The first draft of anything is shit”. Now clearly that needs to be interpreted correctly but what he’s getting at is that you just need to get the first draft down on paper (slash computer screen). You have the concept for the story, your characters, your theme, your outline etc – now just get the damn thing written up.

Here’s another quote for you (don’t worry, I have loads; I won’t run out): “The first draft is nothing more than a starting point, so be as wrong as fast as you can” – Andrew Stanton

I know, I know, these are all soundbites and open to absolute misinterpretation and critique. The important take-out is that you do need to just write the thing. Anyway, this is all about me so let’s get back to me…

I’m sharing bits of my work on this blog to motivate myself to write more and to get some sort of response on what I’m writing (which, if it’s positive, will motivate me to write more)…

However, I’m sharing excerpts from my first draft: my unpolished, ‘just get it down’ phase. This is a scary thing. And may not be a true representation of how the work will end up looking. I’m really not sure that it’s good idea.

Also, I’m attempting to write a novel in verse (please don’t call it an epic poem – that just weirds me out). This is unusual and open to (here’s that word again) misinterpretation – and is also something that I could screw-up very badly… can I maintain a narrative thrust while being ‘poetic’? How do I blend in the dialogue without it feeling forced?

Ok, ok, I’ve already started to lose myself in a self-absorbed ramble. I guess what I’m trying to say is that blogging extracts of a first draft of a novel in verse is silly. I am silly. Be nice to me.

(And remind me to actually plan my next post in order that it will actually have… a point)