A Year of Writing: Days 161-170

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Day 161 of #ayearofwriting and I come across the killings after Katrina and one gentleman called Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. and the murders he committed, the bodies left on the streets which had bullet holes in them and did not die from the floods. The people sent in to help them, killing them because they were desperate. This is the model of climate change as will be, and this is why the military have taken an interest, we are marching into a dystopia, and it is being planned for, we will see this time as a golden age but note, that racism has been on the rise again in the UK and is being whipped up, now imagine that in terms of climate change and possible 3 degree rise within the next 30-40 years. I want to write about Roland J. Bourgeois Jr. and people like him but that is uncomfortable because I am white, I am privileged and I am on the wrong side of history. How do other writers deal with this? I would like to know.
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Day 162 of #ayearofwriting and after a long and hectic day my mojo is waning. I am sat here bashing away at the keyboard, I am not feeling it tonight but what is interesting me is the idea that even in huge cities we live on the same old paths. It reminds me of an award winning novel I wrote, or should it be called an award winning manuscript that started my journey into being a writer 20+ years ago. The novel was bad, but there were some interesting ideas and one seems to have stuck with me, those small paths that move through the giant city that only we see and know. Call it psychogeography or just call it, memory imprint. I am tracing these paths in my mind from everywhere I ever lived, I can feel the heat of the city under my bare feet; I once moved house in bare feet, I was so reckless and cool – so stupid.
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Day 163 of #ayearofwriting and I need a break from the future, I need to write something short. Considering paths and my youth, yes I was young once, I think back to something I once sucked at, running. It wasn’t until later that I discovered that I was rather good at short distance running, and in particular hurdles. I have the height and loved the freedom of leaving the ground and clearing something that if you got caught up in would do some serious damage. It was that sense of danger. Back in 2006 I started to write something on this, and I wondered what would happen if something almost Bradbury-esque would happen if a character fell and broke something, what if they were treated like a horse? It’s been sat on my hard drive ever since, it is a little weird, a little surreal, a little strange and I need something little to polish at the moment.
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Day 164 of #ayearofwriting and what makes a short story a short story? If we consider word lengths, in the UK, thanks in large to competitions and probably our lazy reading habits, a short story is around 2,500 words but go abroad and the word count can drastically drop to less than 1,200 words or go up to 50,000. Many people argue anything over 45,000 words is a novella, as long as it stays below 85,000 words. However, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is just over 46,000 words but is classed as a novel. So, with that in mind, what is the optimum length for a short story? Or more importantly, when does a short story cease to be a short story regardless of word length? What do you think, Linda?
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Day 165 of #ayearofwriting and just had a rather cruel email, goes with the territory, don’t worry, I am a big boy. The email stated that the person would no longer follow this page because I was making them feel bad about the fact they weren’t writing. They queried whether I was just writing for the sake of doing something and that my internal censor was off. That I was just showing off. I was so tempted to say something uncensored in my reply but in the age of English tradition I have pretended that I have never received that email. It’s not as if they will ever know because they have stated they no longer follow this page. Ya-boo, sucks to you. Now that’s off my chest let’s talk, censor. For every story that I have been writing, I have rejected countless ideas that I have either drafted, tinkered with or even written sketches from. You may remember, I talked about this craft technique around Day 60 – you will have to keep up with all the excitement – I find it more satisfying as a writer to draft up sections of a story, a scene, a moment, this leads to questions and allows me to dig into the character deeper, and through them discover the story. Sometimes, there is no story, just bellyaching, like the person who sent me the email, it’s more about them than me. This project is all about me, it is my discovery, and I am using blogs and here just to keep a diary because I like technology, I find it useful to share, I am putting it out there because maybe, just maybe other writers feel like this and will think, great, I am not alone, if he can do it…[insert here: he’s a great/shit writer], I can do it.
A great story should always be about the story and not the writer. The act of writing is about the story not the writer. If it is the other way round, and the writer starts to eclipse the work we settle into the mud of the cult of celebrity. There are many famous writers out there and sometimes they overshadow the work, this means that they are often judged on what they said in the media than on the work produced. Writers, like all humans, can be total fucking morons on some days, and on other days bring great insight into something they want to discuss, and on a rare occasion say something that they should never have spoken about because they know nothing about it. This brings me back to a query earlier in the week, the idea of privilege and being on the wrong side of the fence, Day 161.

In the worst case scenario, writers become so famous that the work can be tripe, offensive, or lazy and still be hailed as genius. When that happens, like all tragedies, wait for the fall from grace and the knives to appear.

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Day 166 of #ayearofwriting and today I have been talking with a poet friend. I told him that my week has started a 7 and ended at 5, then I try to do 2 hours writing in the evening. He wondered how I do it and as I sit at the keyboard, writing about a runner who falls, I wonder also as I start to nod off. I have been burning the candle at both ends.
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Day 167 of #ayearofwriting and it is Father’s Day. In my recent fiction I have mulled over what it means to be a father. Father figures feature in my work all the time, of Mother figures, even if they are not related. Positions of power interest me, from the domestic to the commercial. Parents will say, as I have, being a parent isn’t about power but look at it from a child’s point of view and the lines you once spouted at your own parents, ‘It’s not fair, I never get to do what I want’ even if that was chucking yourself off a cliff (as a parent would often say back, ‘If Charlie chucked himself off a cliff, would you do it?’ There is no Charlie, Charlie is just making a point. Yet, we all know that power corrupts, so are parents, mothers, fathers, corrupt in some way?
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Day 168 of #ayearofwriting and the hurdles story is not grabbing me. There is something about it that reminds me too much of Ray Bradbury, but my version is hollow, so I will put it on the back burner and hope it crisps up and the twist is somehow burnt away. Instead I turn to my mobile phone notes and find something that I forgot writing down, Knight of the Thimble, I need something that challenges the end of the world.
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Day 169 of #ayearofwriting and I am creating a story that seems to draw on oracles. The idea of the Greek hero going to them to discover their fate etc but what happens when people who survive a catastrophic world event become oracles for the young? Keepers of the past that are going senile. What then? How will the past be rewritten? How will the old act when revered?
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Day 170 of #ayearofwriting and I am moving through the world of Knight of the Thimble. The premise is simple, as times get worse and people feel more isolated, they turn to the Samaritans or organisations like it. What happens when the world ends and these people in a call centre at the edge of the city, at the edge of the world are a group of survivors. We have a microcosm, a group of work friends who grow old together until those who are younger discover them. They know the past. They know the secrets of men and women. They become oracles. They become what they have always been, carers. However, they have grown old, they have grown senile, they are not what they where and they fumble over the threads of the past, they make up stuff and what they tell the saved, for that is what they call people who come to them and go away happy, is often strange. I mean, how do explain equal rights in the work place to people who have no concept of ‘the job’. I have just written the day after the world turned to a mess, they recall dragging out their desks onto the top level of multi-story car park and setting fire to them. No one came.

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