I had a change last week and wrote some short stories. I also edited some that I had written a few years ago. It was really interesting to see the difference between them.
The stories from about 2006 had a poor sense of ‘POV’ (all fixed now) and I hadn’t indented any paragraphs – something I would always do now! These two basics, along with ‘its and it’s’, were the most noticeable faults in the stories. However, the plots were almost of the same type and subjects that I am writing about today, as if a continuous thread joins my work at its heart.
I soon corrected the faults and the improvements brought them up to the grammatical quality of my latest offerings.
I have noticed a strange phenomenon when thinking up plots for short stories. For the life of me, I can’t construct a good plot at home! I just can’t! But put me in a car hurtling towards Cheshire or Derbyshire, with no means of recording the story and the plot magically appears.
So, to remedy this, I bout a Dictaphone. Not one of those hefty 1980’s models, one that is the size of a credit card and can record up to 36 hours of speech. 36 hours! Fantastic. Now I can speak my plot and save for later. This is not, however, the only skill of the mini recorder. I inadvertently left it on when I got on the bus one day and it recorded an entire conversation of the two people sitting behind me! Of course, I couldn’t use the exact story they were talking about without asking them for ethical reasons, but it did spark an idea for another story.
So, the novels. I haven’t given up by any means, I’m still sending them out, and revising, editing, revising. I have one with another beta reader and another in traction waiting for a refit. But in these uncertain financial time, I wonder almost obsessively how many manuscripts will get sold? Of course the lead time is quite far in the future: anything sold now will be published around 2010. If anything, people must have more time to read books. I see lots of commuters reading, and I am guessing that if they were made redundant they would read more, not less. Additionally, the possibilities for escapism into a novel are appealing when one has a lot of time on one’s hands. So I will continue submitting, hoping that the slush pile will finally part and an unsuspecting agent will glimpse the jewel of my novel within 🙂
In the meantime I will carry on with the short stories and incubate ideas for another novel. None of this is wasted; it’s all logged and filed under ‘publishable work’ and it’s timeless. I’ve accumulated quite a lot of fiction work now I just know some day all the hard work will pay off!
It was thinking about the ‘pay off’ that made quite an impact on me. When I was listening to the stories for the bus on my Dictaphone, I was in my element. I love hearing stories and I love telling stories. I understand narrative at a high level, but this isn’t the kind of storytelling I mean here. One of the people on the bus was moaning about the price of Warburton’s bread and the other commented that it tasted like cardboard. He went on to describe the taste of ‘real bread’ and stated that the memory of that taste is something money can’t buy. It got me thinking, it reminded me that there are lots of elements to my writing. The grammar, essentially a tool to communicate the story; correctable by spell and grammar checkers built in to word processing tools. But the real taste memory is in the plot and characters – they can’t be bought and paid for and executed with ease; they must be intuited from thin air before any story can take place. In this world where kudos and financial gain mean such a lot to so many people, what is it that money can’t buy?
Well, of course there is love. You find it and work at it, but you really can’t buy it. Life is another non-financial gain. I studied critical realism in depth and it differs from relativism in this way – imagine that all the people fell off the earth today. What would remain? The earth itself and the universe would endure, some species would endure and some would die out, the rivers, the mountains, the moon. They are all real. But everything else that depends on human interaction is not real and is socially constructed to various degrees. There is also the argument that if humans are not here to perceive the concept of the earth would it still exist? It would, not as that concept but it would inevitably endure. In relativism and postmodernism, where everything is constructed in language, the world would cease to exist without us.
My commitment to Gaia theory and critical realism stems from my realisation of the egocentric model which pitches human beings at the centre of the universe. I do not understand how people cannot realise that current environmental issues will not be the end of the world. The earth will survive and adapt. Humans will perish in the heat. The earth has operated for eons on a homeostatic model of self correction. So, money can’t buy understanding. Or knowledge.
Love, life, understanding, knowledge. All of these require the long haul, the endurance test. None of them are a quick fix, or greedy. They are of nature, basic. They are woven around social constructions but not made by them, they are all of an ontological nature yet fluid and flexible with mutable meanings.
I started to write driven by love, life, understanding and knowledge. Hopefully, if I am persistent and I endure, my stories of love and life will become woven into the knowledge of understanding. It’s the best can hope for in this mercenary world.