Saturday, March 31, 2012

Novel Beginnings

Ten days off is a luxury I don't get that often. Ten days to do as I please, relax, read, exercise, play, sleep - okay and feed cats and finish Greek writing job that is sending me loopy and see the odd movie.. but yeah, I have ten, possibly seventeen days off which to do as I want. ( It might be 17 days depends on the next job's paperwork - might be starting the week after if the paperwork is on the go slow - not to worry - the job is mine).

One of the things I really want to get cracking on, especially after the Greek job is finished, is this blasted novel I've been threatening for the last two decades.

See, I know I can write. I know I don't write too badly. And I know that I can do this, but I just have to focus this so called 'flaky' mind of mine, sit on my arse and do it.

Like any sort of writing, you have to ask the questions before you start. The whats, the wheres, the whos, the whys and the hows. This is what I'm tinkering with at the moment.

There is also the matter of style. The matter of voice. The matter of audience. The type of novel I want to write. This is where I come a bit unstuck - and I can't shut my bloody brain off, so I procrastinate, stagnate and put my notebook away.

What I do have, so far, is the what, where, when and how.

The what is the easy bit. The novel is based on my time being an illegal alien in London. I managed this for six years (was in the UK for a total of eight). I'm told that there is a worthy story here. So for the last few months I've been pondering my rather chequered history from 1991 to 1999. Not that it's that nefarious. Okay, I didn't have a visa - but I payed my taxes and national insurance. I didn't steal, kill or maim. I worked a professional job in an international company. I have an English name, a sort of English accent (call it a very tempered Australian accent - I'm often confused for a Pom - and think of myself as a confused Brit most of the time). This time period comes with a killer sound track too - which is helping. Some songs just take me back to weird and wondeful places. Robbie Williams, 4 Non Blondes, some of the better concerts I've seen. There's also a lot of stuff there which made life simpler. No mobile phones, no emails. There were letters and telephones - other ways of communicating information.

The where is easy too. Most of the time, action takes place in London. There will have to be some bits about how I got in and out of the country - so a jaunt or two to Ireland and a bit about Paris and beyond. Sorted. I used to know the area around NW6 and NW3 like the back of my hand - West Hampstead, Camden, Swiss Cottage, Hampstead - know it well - can conjure it up without too much problem. Easy.

When is also easy. 1991-1999. There might need to be a bit of back story - and this is being a bit problematic. But we'll get to that.

How is also covered. I know how I got to stay in a country I loved for so long under not quite kosher circumstances. No problems there.

It's the who and the why I'm trying to grips with.

Do I write this as an autobiography, or write a novel with using history as a loose base? The latter is the way to go - reckon. Writing about real people is hard - especially if I don't want to get myself sued. Writing about people as amalgams is easier - and less hassle. Looking back, I've got a string of people I can use as a basis for a fictional work. They will have to be changed completely. Other's not so much. I'm sure there's some value to be found in the old flat mates, the share houses, the trips around the country.

Looking at the anecdotes from eight years in England, there's a heap to choose from. In some ways, there's too much to look at - so I'm getting stuff into the notebook. Snippets of songs, photos from distance years, forgotten friends, blurry photos of mispent times.

The things that are troubling me the most. First up, the whys. Can I give you a straight up answer as to why I spent six years living as an illegal alien? Yes, and no. Until I can come to grips with this completely, I'm not sure how far I can go in writing this. I need a solid foundation as to why the main character did what she did - I need to give her motivation. I'm getting there, but it's not an easy question to answer. Until I fix this conundrum I don't think I'll be able to vouch for the authenticity of the novel.

Then there is the question of voice. Third person or first person. I'm naturally write better in the first person, though the third person gives and omniscient narrative which has it's value. Or maybe use a mix of the two.

So there's my dilemma. I want to write a novel. I know there's a novel in me (well more than the Mills and Boon novel I wrote in my lunchtimes at work fifteen years ago.) I know I can stretch myself to a more literary bent. I know I can be a little funny if I have to.

I also know I don't want to write something that's either too light, nor too "chick litty". I don't read chit lit. Why should I write it? I write well in fragments (probably something to do with the fact I have the attention span of a labrador puppy)

Anyhoos, this is what I think about when I'm running. And sitting on the tram. And allegedly working.
I should get on with this bloody Greek travel Google optimisation stuff so I can start devoting myself to this.

Comments and thoughts welcome.



Jackie K said...

You can do it. Enjoy the process! And don't worry too much about the format to start with - just start; you can rework it later.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

That sounds great - a novel based on your experience. I have dabbled with my own novels and actually started a couple - but they were too ambitious and went nowhere. I haven't given up - and may yet revisit. However, I have read that basing a novel on your own experiences is a great way to start - because you know what happened, where to go, who the characters are and then you can exaggerate situations, character traits, etc. for comic, dramatic effect. It's a kind of "what if?" situation I guess.

You will have terrific fun, I'm sure, and I really should revisit my novel(s).

You may yet inspire me.

Best of luck.




Kath said...

Do it.

That's my advice.

Kath said...

Oh and then tell me to do it too!