Here is an insight into the sorts of entry I make in my notebooks when considering my writing portfolio. The notes below were made on retreat today – after a short walk in the rain!
I need sufficient projects to keep me busy for at least three hours a day.
The projects need to have some variety of form.
At least two of them need to be ‘large scale’.
Because it would be wrong to write none.
I’m currently faffing. The Haiku collection idea is probably a daft one. It lacks substance and cohesion to become anything other than occasional – even if there were nearly 200 of them. I think I’ve known this all along, so why not cut to the chase?
On that basis, what then? Work towards a new collection, but one that has more of a theme – both subject and form. One made up entirely of rhyming work feels ‘right’ for this stage in my career. Not necessarily things like sonnets or villanelles, but rhyming.
I think that works.
The issue then becomes one of topic. I am tempted to go back into my childhood / adolescence given I am never going to write anything biographical otherwise. And there is a lot to uncover: love, rootlessness, discovery, sacrifice, relationships, education, frustration/anger, loss (in many forms). The Homelessness of a Child really only scratched the surface; time to take a deeper dive perhaps?
The other option would be to choose a ‘subject’ – I don’t know, like ‘memory’ or ‘trains’ or ‘goldfish’ (I’m being flippant) – and flog that… Yes okay, but I’m concerned that there wouldn’t be enough of me in that, and ‘bigger’ topics (not goldfish!) may be more suited to my fiction i.e. that’s where I’m happier tackling them.
(Of course at the end of this I may decide to invert the lot and swap subject and media around…)
(this assumes that “C” is followed through to conclusion between now and September)
Ah… First question: short or long or very long? Or more than one?
You know, my gut feeling is – and has been for some while now – that the only valid answer is ‘very long’. By that I mean one single novel of at least 150,000 words. Easy to say – and in a way easy to do, once I have settled on the skeleton of an idea… Which is always the hard part. It’s simple enough to rule out genre where that wouldn’t represent my authentic voice. In a way, I think I want to rule out all genres! Not sci-fi, not murder mystery, not historical etc. Most of the ‘action’ in my fiction happens either between people or inside their heads. (But that’s a nice idea, the inside-the-head thing, especially when it comes to format… One for background rumination.)
So the question then boils down to plot and character.
Idea: why not start with drawing up some character profiles of people I would find interesting to write about? Don’t worry about locating them in a plot at this stage; see if by creating the actors a plot suggests itself.
I like that. Perhaps an activity for this afternoon. Could be very productive!
That feels like a good start. Make no mistake, this is not some sudden revelation or moment of epiphany, but rather the consolidation of weeks of thoughts and notes written in my notebook at home. All grist to the mill, those thoughts and ideas have been ‘proving’ in the background a little like yeast does before you bake the loaf (which might be a good metaphor). I just need to finalise the ingredients or end product…
And what about ‘filler’ activity, that third project? Short stories are always a good bet, perhaps especially so if I’m going to be attempting fiction on a larger scale.
Then there’s the follow-on to Crash and whether that is viable / worthwhile / has merit as an idea, a triptych. And what of the idea of producing a play of some persuasion: radio, stage, screen? The possibilities are joyously endless – which is why reaching a definitive conclusion can be difficult. Yes, there’s logic involved, but so much is driven by heart rather than head…
All that feels very positive. Amazing what a walk in the rain can do to clear your head!