A Year of Writing: Days 311-320

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Day 311 of #ayearofwriting and even in the final rewriting there needs to be a sense of continuity. This means the stripping away of anything superfluous. So, I have just come across a section in which I have gone over the top in setting. This can be seen in this small section:

‘There is a mountain of post, as high in parts as the hill that the house stands on, I clear a way through with my foot, things move; a stack of sell us your house for big money letters and leaflets with smiling families in front of the homes they have to give up.’

I added the possibility of rats because I liked the idea – WARNING BELLS – I stepped into the story because that would creep me out but it brings nothing to the story, and is counter to how Ms Hayashida acts and looks. She would not be the kind of woman to allow post to become a problem, the carer’s agency that she pays to keep care of her, wouldn’t allow it to happen. The character of Kaito, who I have discussed previously, wouldn’t allow this to happen. So, why is it still there? Because I like it and that is a big no-no. So, out it goes.

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Day 312 of #ayearofwriting and one of the criticisms of my work is that it is often too lyrical. Too poetical. Funnily enough the first writing I ever did was poetry, I’ve written several poetry collections, I don’t write as much poetry as I used to do but it lingers on the edges still. I am not ashamed to be lyrical, to be poetical, many writers would benefit from lingering over the line, honing it. It may not always work, but sometimes I enjoy the image, the metaphor, the personification:

‘Smoke curls from shrines in the hall, lapping incense; a thick gluey jasmine that gets into my throat. I cough loudly, it bounces along the hall and the dead answer from the smoke, the clunk-clunk of a gramophone being wound, needle dropping, the heartbeat of a record that tilts into Nat King Cole’s ‘Road to Nowhere’.’

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Day 313 of #ayearofwriting and you have to be aware sometimes in your own craft that you slip into stock empty phrases. ‘I find’ is one, in a narrative this brings nothing, it is hollow. No one thinks like this, they may say it but remember narrative is often the internal voice of the character or the spoken dialogue. ‘I find’ brings nothing to the party. I find that to be true. It is true. Which one do you prefer? One is passive, one is a statement. Characters who are passive may as well be six feet under by the end of the story, as they will never activate or go on a journey. This is what would have happened to Little Red Riding Hood if she hadn’t screamed.

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Day 314 of #ayearofwriting and many years ago at Lumb Bank I was taught by the wonderful novelist Michele Roberts. One of the exercises was to write a sex scene but replace all the naughty parts with some made up word. You see, when writers write sex it can often be contrived or worse still, fantasy and/or brutality. I have therefore shied away from any sex in my fiction until Ms Hayashida quite correctly points out in the story, that it is inevitable. It is her only entertainment. But again as a writer, I like the chase, when the sex happens I think there is enough there in the chase to make you realise that this is going to be great for after all, Ms Hayashida is fully in control and this is no Mrs Robinson bullshit.

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Day 315 of #ayearofwriting and there are moments in a final write that you create something in a character that builds an image of them. In Ms Hayashida the man from head office is described as having a mouth like a typewriter, his words like a discarded typewriter ribbon, punctured hollow words. There is something sad and beautiful about discarded typewriter ribbons, you can find the past there, often over written, but it is a worn thing, a thin thing, a tired thing, a monotone thing.

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Day 316 of #ayearofwriting and I know I said by yesterday that Ms Hayashida should be finished but it doesn’t feel finished. I have given myself another seven days. For a lot can happen in seven days. Ms Hayashida has more to say yet.

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Day 317 of #ayearofwriting and I am not happy with the ending of my story. You have to be wary of the fantastic in a tale, as if all else is put aside to shoe horn it in. I will have to put it on the back burner and consider whether this is story about the living or the dead. A story about finding a path for each.

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Day 318 of #ayearofwriting and though writing is hard there is something immensely satisfying about killing words and sentences when you edit. The line becomes hard, like flint, unyielding to the touch but of purpose. It becomes a tool for the idea and theme. It becomes something that cuts the reader, burrows in and sits there. That is the beauty of killing words. But be wary, dear reader, dear writer, flint shatters.

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Day 319 of #ayearofwriting and the drab office of the agency is wonderful to behold. I am thinking of one of the worst offices I ever worked in, it was sour. I draw on that feeling in what I am rewriting as I move through the Ms Hayashida story. It’s not about writing what you know but about how a place makes you feel.

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Day 320 of #ayearofwriting and I know by now that I wanted the Ms Hayashida story to be over but there is a little work to do. The writing of anything sexualised is difficult. How far can you go with the language, when you are thinking that the final title will be ‘hibakusha; ghost people’. It’s hard to sexualise the affects of an atom bomb without pissing a lot of people off.

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