insight

‘Will I want to keep reading?’ my husband asks me.

We’re having breakfast, munching Zopf (a typical Swiss bread eaten on slow Sunday mornings) and drinking tea. Our daughter is spreading a thick layer of jam on hers and the cat is chasing flies on the wide windowsill.

I’d stayed up late the night before to work on a scene that I’d planned to have near the middle of my novel, and which, while I couldn’t let it go, had always troubled me.

That’s the trouble with writing. Once the words are down on paper (metaphorically speaking, of course), it’s hard to unimagine them. I like this scene, but no amount of tweaking seems to make it better or a better fit.

‘What’s it about?’ he asks next, and I find myself struggling to explain, succinctly, what the scene contains and why it’s there.

‘The book I’m reading at the moment is well written but very annoying,’ he says, ‘because it’s so disjointed and full of unnecessary information. It jumps all over the place.’

‘Like that other book you read, Daddy,’ our daughter chimes in, ‘you didn’t like that either.’

Everyone’s a critic.

‘And don’t put social commentary ahead of a good story,’ he says, his final piece of advice as he reaches for another slice of Zopf.

And, of course, he’s right (just this once), because what’s the point if no one wants to keep reading? The danger is that while I wrestle with each word and struggle to include all the sentiment (and social commentary) I think should be there I’ll lose sight of what my story is really about, which, at its heart, is the impact a tragic death has on those living in a small, isolated and very troubled community. Too much commentary and I risk weakening the impact of what is at its essence.

‘He begins to sob and the sound trickles out from between cracked lips and tears drip down his cheeks at the thought of what he has done and what he has not done. Love has found him and will not now let him go.’

zopf

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The write stuff

At what point do you start thinking of yourself as a writer?

If it hinges on being published than I should have started when I was nine and had my first piece published in a tiny local paper…oh the joy, the pride! Shame I can’t even remember what it was I actually wrote.

There have been a lot of words since those halcyon days, but not so many of them fiction, and perhaps that’s my stumbling block, this idea that I can’t call myself a writer unless I made it up myself.

But I know this isn’t really true, not when I consider all the creative nonfiction I’ve read, the personal narratives that contain such gorgeous imagery and which make me want to savour every word.

The creative part, I realise, is just as much in the putting of words and phrases together as in the subject matter. It’s in the care that is taken to fit this with that, to create an image that lingers in the mind or a sentence that trips beautifully off the tongue so that you want to say it out loud over and over again.

It’s in the bringing to life of something that, real or not, is suddenly, there on the page, more real than it ever was before.

write stuff