A Year of Writing: Days 301-310

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Day 301 of #ayearofwriting and the draft of the Ms Hayashida shudders to the end. Something else is introduced, not of spirits or gods but of masks. The idea reminds me of the academic work is did on Ray Bradbury, how the late William Touponce was really kind to me over this discovery, stating that I had stumbled on something exciting about Bradbury. The idea of masks. It is a very Post-Colonial idea but something the British cultivated in Empire. It is something that we cling on to still. There are many masks and it is all a play, a very brutal form of fiction were people are just characters and characters are more real than people. This brings me back to Ms Hayashida, more real now as a fictionalised object in my narrator’s life, a mask he wishes to wear rather than face the terrible cruelties of the real world.


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Day 302 of #ayearofwriting and now the Ms Hayashida story moves into another draft. Some stories have many drafts, some have a few and this story is on its third draft. Though I suspect there are only maybe two more drafts, I am surprised by how fast the story has come into shape. I suspect this has been down to a more focused way of writing, the act of thinking before I sit down at the keyboard. Do not underestimate the power of thinking as a writer, and of the notebook, even sticky notes or slips of paper will do. It is like the construction of a building, the idea of planning the structure before you start and making more difficult decisions at the start rather than when you are halfway through the building. Better to plan first instead of deciding you don’t want that bathroom just there. When I first started to think of Ms Hayashida it was in response to how we deal with or write about the glories of war. The many who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are dwarfed by the fact we won. You have to consider what impact this had on communities, and though technically my story only takes this as inspiration and weaves a high fantasy story (bordering on magic realism) that deals with the idea of people being like plants, shedding diseased parts of themselves (compartmentalization), the idea still boils down to the shame of those post war communities on the losing side. We often applaud ourselves for how we treated the losers, how we supplied aid but at the same time we carved something out of them and tossed it away, slotting our own ideals back in, and many times this has been a bad fit.


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Day 303 of #ayearofwriting and removing BT Virus Protect is like wading through mud. This is the problem with technology for writers! Go back to banging rocks, folks.

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Day 304 of #ayearofwriting and sometimes in a story you find chunks of writing that should have come earlier in the structure. The great thing about computers over typewriters – yes, I am that old to have known the pleasure and frustration of carbon paper – is that you can simply copy and paste. Of course, this game of Tetris text always leaves gaps in the plot or story, that you now have to go back and write. Unlike the typewriter, you cannot throw a laptop through an open window into a bush and expect it to work when you retrieve it.

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Day 305 of #ayearofwriting and it is always a delight when the final edit comes through for a story due to be published. It’s interesting what comes up in the mix and how small the world is, my editor once lived only a village away from me when I was ten years old. It’s not who you know but where you live which impacts on you in the end.

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Day 306 of #ayearofwriting and as I move through the Ms Hayashida story I rewrite a piece that captures the fragility and strength of hands. Even though the section is written about his mother’s hands, I know I am writing about my Dad. How big his hands seemed and how in the end I held his heart beneath my own hand, felt the life seep from it, felt how small and fragile a thing it was. How small his hands seemed. How small he seemed in that hospital bed. How two and half months after his death I cannot shake that image. Cannot shake that moment. So, I put my Dad upon the page and though you always hear as writers, write what you know, the truth is that maxim is very hollow, trite. I have never been to Mars. I have never been in a spaceship. I have never lived in a cult. I have not done many things but imagine and feel (and research). Therefore, for me it will always be, write what you feel, if you feel it, it will be real, you will be writing what you know, because you know how you feel. I owe that to my Dad and my Mum because to be a real man, you have to feel. Be passionate about writing or get the hell out of it.


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Day 307 of #ayearofwriting and my character in Ms Hayashida goes to the diner for the last time#teaser:

There’s no sign of Sora’s wallet at the diner, just Steve and his ragged ears with Paul in one of the window booths. He sees me by the till, beckons me over. Paul pulls a tacky puppy rain coat around him; grinning faces and tiny tails wagging around his bowels and kidneys. Thankfully, the puppies aren’t revealing the early morning show. Steve sucks up breakfast noodles, dips flat bread slathered in bacon in a fried egg; a huge smile on face, yolk down his chin. No wallet, he says mid belch, Paul winces and looks out at the rain, pulling the coat tighter around himself. Steve says, Sora is moving to Tokyo to be with other haishitsu. It’s what Sora wants, to be surrounded by disabled people. You’re not one of us, he adds. I look at Steve, his gristle ears hacked away by some blunt knife before he made his money, before he put real American diners all over the world. A piece of bacon pokes from the corner of his mouth, he sucks it in and laughs. Steve means that I am not a member of ‘the club’ and not a rich cripple like Sora. I am not grey, he tells me, but being fired will cost me a finger, maybe a toe, in the worst case an ear or eye but he thinks most likely my little toe will curl up and drop off. It’s okay, then I will understand. He may even put in a good word for me to join them at the next meeting if I bring the toe in a jar. Just remember to wash out the jelly first, says Steve. I tell Steve to go fuck himself, as they say in America, real American words in a shitty diner he owns. His jaw drops, half masticated food on his tongue, noodles between his teeth, I can see the veneered ones nestled beside the cavities, filled with silver and gold. Paul laughs, a short bark that cues my exit from the place. They gawk at me through the window. It’s then I notice that beyond this tiny circle there is no carer for Paul. I will phone the agency and let my case manager, Kaito know, Paul shouldn’t be alone; he has the tendency to attract the wrong kind of people. I will ask Kaito to get me a new position and tell him about Sora. Let him sort it out. I walk down the block to catch the bus.


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Day 308 of #ayearofwriting and this writing everyday is paying off, after 408 days of continuous writing, including #100daysofwriting which I did end of last year I am basically in the process of waiting for a short story to be published, rewriting an accepted article for an a book, writing two columns, talking with an editor about writing several pieces for a magazine. Basically, the more you write the better and sometimes worse it can get. This is not my desk, my desk is under piles of books.

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Day 309 of #ayearofwriting and sometimes in writing I like to think of my characters with animal traits. At the moment I am writing Kaito – not as in Pink Panther, films which I grew up with but which, to be fair, were dealing in stereotypes so extreme that in the later films Peter Sellars makes you wince when he opens his mouth – my Kaito is more mole like. This poor man tied up, literally by the phone line, by the demands of head office is drowning in paperwork. He becomes a metaphor, an image of where we are in education today where good people are drowning in the nonsense that often comes down to us from people who have never met a student in their life. In Kaito’s case it is an head office of a carer’s agency that frankly only cares about the money. I am also enjoying the idea that his office is above a museum devoted to radiation, which has post cards of the first public atom bomb – as she calls it – and blow up Godzilla’s.
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Day 310 of #ayearofwriting and I am aware that I have set myself the deadline of day 315 to complete this story. I am on page 5 of 11…hmmm. Yesterday I spoke about the museum downstairs and I am drawn back to it today as imagine it as this.


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