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 Imperfect

 

 

A lit professor once told me about a book that I’ve never read. Can’t recall the author or the title, either.

Maybe the book doesn’t exist. Perhaps the professor made it up to make a point. I think it was a German author. Bothered by the changes editors made upon his manuscripts, he set out to write a unique book, one in which his chapters and the editor’s version were side by side, in effect, telling the same story but from the commercialized POV versus the author’s artistic vision. I want to read it if I can ever find it.

I know my weaknesses as a writer is that I cater too much to myself as a reader. Among my favorite books are Catch 22, Catcher in the Rye, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, and The Sound and the Fury. I like their chaos factors, especially The Sound and the Fury.

I like complications. My characters aren’t typically nice nor terrible. I love inner ethos and my characters consistently suffer and endure my love. They’re lost. Confused. Struggling. They’re not simple people.

Neither are my books. This came to mind as I read my last novel’s beginning. Returnee is not an easy read. It will require a dogged reader to get through to the point that understanding is achieved, bit by bit by bit. The novel does not have an easy beginning. It’s chaotic, confusing and jumpy. Just as I wanted. Just as I like. That structure and beginning reflect the main characters’ chaos. The way smooths as they gain understanding. They never quite gain control. Matters are resolved but not in control.

That’s how I view life. We have flashes of success and control. Sometimes these are myriad flashes strung together, providing an illusion of sustained success and control. More often, though, I believe when people look at the beginning and ending of a matter, if they can find a place to call a beginning and ending, they’ll discover they veered from their original plans. Intentions and concepts remain the same but they skirted and skated from one setback to another to achieve some semblance of success, some nuance of ending.

That’s another point for me and my writing. Life isn’t tidy. Neither are my stories. The beginnings and end are a struggle to define. You pick a point and mark it as a beginning but the chain of causes can be long, almost infinite, stretching into misunderstood, half fathomed actions our ancestors undertook.  Our world is pockmarked with altars to permanence, now treasured as unused and lovely monuments to what we once believed.

So it is with my books and characters. Matter are never fully explained, never fully understood, although diligent readers can walk away with what I was trying to say. Of course, most readers will end up with insights I never saw.

That’s the nature of novels for me, an exploration of existence through various situations. It’s not commercial fiction. It’ll never catch on and leap to the top of best-selling lists but I sure enjoy it. That’s the writing life.

Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.

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A Sort of Mental Squint

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Some reflections on the writing life from the great and the good (especially for those who feel discouraged right now).

 

In America, only the successful writer is important, in France, all writers are important, in England, no writer is important, and in Australia, you have to explain what a writer is.

Geoffrey Cottrell

 

Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity

T S Eliot

 

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

 Ray Bradbury

 

All the information you need can be given in dialogue.

Elmore Leonard

 

Fiction is the truth inside the lie.

Stephen King

 

Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.

 Orson Scott Card

 

Don't be too harsh to these poems until they're typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty:at least if things are bad, then they appear bad with conviction.

Dylan Thomas

 

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.

Terry Pratchett

 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

 

Anecdotes don’t make good stories. Generally I dig down underneath them so far that the story that finally comes out is not what people thought their anecdotes were about.

Alice Munro

 

Everywhere I go I am asked if I think university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.

Flannery O'Connor

 

Keep a diary, and one day it will keep you.

Mae West

 

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there in invisible ink and clamouring to become visible.

Vladimir Nabakov

 

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood, I'd type a little faster.

Isaac Asimov

 

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.

Ernest Hemingway

 

Publication – is the auction of the Mind of Man.

Emily Dickinson

 

The best style is the style you don't notice.

Somerset Maugham

 

There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.

Robert Graves

 

When you are describing

A shape or sound or tint:

Don't put the matter plainly,

But put it in a hint:

And learn to look at all things

With a sort of mental squint.

Lewis Carroll

 

Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.

Truman Capote

 

When a man is in doubt about this or that in his writing, it will often guide him if he asks himself how it will tell a hundred years hence.

Samuel Butler

 

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A bit of nostalgia - my first typewriter was one of these!

Recent Comments
Nicholas Mackey
A great bunch of quotations around the act of writing and all have the ring of truth about them. I particularly identify with the ... Read More
Saturday, 23 August 2014 13:18
Rosy Cole
As mentioned elsewhere, in those days, I did the first scribbled and cross-hatched draft(s)! in biro. The sound of typewriter keys... Read More
Monday, 25 August 2014 12:11
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Writing For Life

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