Adventures in Writing and Reading (An Occasional Series), Part 7
Hello readers. More to report on, I’m afraid. Seems to be a bit of a backlog, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I’ve still been writing lots, just not posting things up, unsure of how to proceed so just holding on to things and letting them grow inside my creaking computer. So this blog may be more posts about writing than posts of actual writing, for a while. So, in today’s post… this year’s NaNoWriMo and I’ll ramble about some books I’ve read recently, and explain how some of this has any relevance to anything else, or at least try.
But before all that happened/ will happen, I was busy with the 2012 Guernsey Litfest, as I have already written about here and here. There was so much happening, and I saw so many different writers who I probably would not have gone to see were it not for having got involved in running it. As both a reader and a writer I found so many events completely inspirational, from listening to established poets like Carol Ann Duffy and Lynton Kwesi Johnson, to hearing the brilliant Farrago Poetry, workshopping with Chuma Nwokolo and expanding my horizons with a Bibliotheraphy session. Anyway, I’m about a month late on writing about the litfest, and I should drag this post into the every day/ every week/ every month, the here and now and take this post to the library.
As well as being one of my favourite places to take my computer and sit and work for a few hours on a Saturday, and also a good place to curl up in the window with one of it’s many many books, the Guille Alles Library also runs a monthly reading group. I’ve been attending on and off for a couple of years now, since I went along to a ‘short story’ themed meeting to see what people thought about, um, short stories. I’ve been back a number of times since then, ramble-mumbling about various things – Christopher Isherwood, Philip Roth, Marjane Satrapi’s Petropolis, Where The Wild Things Are – and even going along to a filming of the Channel 4 Book Club, in which the reading group was featured, and from which I was cut (it’s ok, it was probably a good thing, I don’t think I was very positive or very coherent). The Reading Group brings together an interesting mix of readers (all lovely people too) and I always find that there are plenty of surprises, that different people read/ interpret the same thing in so many different ways. And sometimes I find that it makes me think differently about what I’m writing as well, kind of like pre-emptive feedback. It makes me think about ways I want to or don’t want to write, because there is plenty I can learn from the criticism/ celebration of other people’s work.
Anyway, the topic of the next meeting is the Man Booker Prize nominees, for which I have read and digested Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse. Having not read any of the other novels nominated for the booker prize, I cannot comment on whether THIS SHOULD DEFINITELY HAVE WON etc, however I can report on Alison Moore’s novel as it’s own thing. So. The Lighthouse is a very gently written, quietly portentious little piece of work in which the main character, a middle-aged man named Futh, struggles his way around a walking holiday. First, I like the name of the main character, Futh. It has a nice soft sound. Futh himself is likeable but frustrating, a little inept, and the name Futh is evocative of the ineffective way he makes his circular journey, constantly prey to his introspective recollections yet unable to find any concrete solutions to his problems. Pleasure, pain and violence are all muted, off-screen, shockingly unshocking. I had a bit of an issue with the ending (which I am not, of course going to give away), until I realised that it was in keeping with the rest of the novel (and I can’t say much else about the ending without giving it away), and I kind of came to accept it. I don’t think this novel would have been out of place as a winner, and I can recommend reading it.
It’s that time of year again (October), when National Novel Writing Month (November) appears on the horizon and the magic total of 1,667 words per day becomes etched in my mind. I know that quality is more important than quantity, but I do find that the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month is beneficial nontheless – I always end it with more words than I would get down in an ordinary month, and how can that be a bad thing? I don’t want to (and am not going to) weigh in with some kind of ‘rules for writing’ checklist, but if I did presume to proffer some such advice, pretty near the top would be to not be scared of failure. NaNoWriMo puts the writer in a position where they are encouraged to take risks as they go along, to write down things with which they might not usually bother. Sometimes these turn out to be better than the things the writer thinks long and hard about. This year I’ll be cheating slightly and trying to finish last year’s novel (the rules state that it should be a new piece of work), but I’ll still be aiming for 50,000 words and I’m sure I’ll still be as panicked as ever as the days tick by faster than they do during any other month of the year.
(In Part 8 – Adam Marek and Marcel Ayme).