A Year of Writing: Day 121-130

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Day 121 of #ayearofwriting and William Blake creeps into my story, as the people cling to his patriotic nature of Jerusalem, getting Blake wrong as so many have. Not the radical but the Nationalist. Saul is torn between the present and the past, and we see what he did, what he carries with him and that his confession is twisted to fit another sin, another fabrication, another scapegoat.

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Day 122 of #ayearofwriting and in the original sketching out of the story, Saul has his tongue cut out but in this draft I have decided there is no real point to that or to explain who took the goats. It is merely a unfortunate event that releases the demons of the village. To leave Saul with his tongue means that whatever he speaks will go unheard, for reason has left and in its place, fear all played out in a place that is quintessentially English. Don’t you just love juxtaposition?

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Day 123 of #ayearofwriting and I am completed on draft two, I went back an tweaked something. Now, I am in draft three and it is all about the tone and language now. The structure is there. The story is there. It’s just about editing and subtracting now. There is a fine line between revisiting the voice in The Tin Grasshopper and making a parody of it. I have to find how his Cornish accent has been affected by living in the North for so long, which tones, which phrases would Saul have hung on to, what would have softened? That is the hard part and something that has been at the back of my mind through what has been a long drafting process for this short story. Sometimes drafting makes you feel like the man in the photo, so many possibilities that you somehow have to make fit through the eye of a needle. A camel is a piece of piss in that situation.

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Day 124 of #ayearofwriting and listening to Al Bowlly as I edit. My son wanders in and lies beside me, reading over my shoulder. ‘Oh, not that story again,’ he says, ‘Have you not finished that one yet?’ I tell him that this is not The Tin Grasshopper but he’s not convinced, he knows the words, the sound of Saul’s voice and asks when I will publish, when it will be in shops like sweets or shoelaces. He wants to know about the music and why I am listening to it as I edit. I tell him that it keeps me in a rhythm, that the sound and cadence reminds me of voices gone, of loves gone, of a world long gone. I tell him about Al Bowlly and his demise. I tell him about the beauty he left behind, like an image or perfection caught in sound. I tell him that is what a short story is when it works well, it has the cadence of Al Bowlly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cr4ncMR5EVQ

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Day 125 of #ayearofwriting and with the good weather comes my usual bad habit of writing naked. It appears that I am not alone in this pass time, Agatha Christie did it, Hemmingway loved it, Victor Hugo was Les Miserables when clothed and typing and one of my favourite writers, Theodore Sturgeon, only stopped doing it when he moved in with Greg Bear. I believe the story went that they came to a compromise and Sturgeon would regularly answer the door in a pair of speedos. It frightened the shit out of the DHL delivery person. Why do I do it? Maybe it is a ritual or just comfortable letting your junk just do its thing whilst your typing – how’s that for a mental image? – or maybe it has something to do with a connection to something much more primitive and shamanistic. Nah! Just cool skin and fast typing. Never Google ‘naked typing’.

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Day 126 of #ayearofwriting and editing using the replace function makes you aware of how much you use or overuse a word. It’s a great way to find repetition and with some swift cuts alter it. I find that I overuse against and had, repetition often results in clunky prose, like a steam train setting off, the carriages banging in to each other.

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Day 127 of #ayearofwriting and we are in the next draft and monsters in forests, and giants that clog up rivers. It is the magic and mystery of the hoodwood – cornish word for forest – that tangles me up here. It is a metaphor for Saul’s story, all the beauty that comes with a forest in full bloom and the death that lies within its roots.

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Day 128 of #ayearofwriting and some bad news at work has hit me hard. When life creeps into your writing world, it is often hard to keep your mojo without the black dog crawling in to bed beside you but I will push through. I love writing, it is part of who I am, I just need some good news today, tomorrow or the day after. I need to see that there is love for reading still in the world when you are faced with so many who just glue their faces to their phones. I’d be happy if they were reading but they’re not, it’s called being social but there is little social skills involved. ”You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.’ – Ray Bradbury.

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Day 129 of #ayearofwriting and after my blip yesterday I am back writing a scene with Collins, Saul and Lilith. Collins was originally a farmer but now he has evolved into something else. I consider his other trait, his love of gossiping, and that is who he is. A man who goes from house to house, telling his gossip, getting fed, getting fat, he is the internet, the newspaper, the priest, the old woman over the back wall as you peg out your washing. Gone is the farmer, and in wanders fat Collins with his fat words, his lack of grace, his inability to read a situation because his face is always in a pan.

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Day 130 of #ayearofwriting and we are in the kitchen at the cottage and now the idea of cholera gets the chop. Those at the edge of wood are healthy, that is far more frightening and what Saul does to them is all the more worse. As a writer you sometimes have to make decisions, that plot sometimes shouldn’t dictate character, that story should flow from character. No good story is an easy story, both in the writing and often in the reading. We do not need to like characters but they must be compelling and tension is compelling, dramatic tension even more. The major mistakes in any story is that nothing happens. There is no metaphor, no imagery, no subtext, no text. A character must want something, something really bad. Consider this, you want the toilet really bad, but everytime you go you are thwarted, the tension rises and rises until you have to take matters into your own hands. How far would you go to have a pee?

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