Cartography

Pick a number, any number. Between 1 and 80.

I’ve been posting a lot of poetry lately, and very little in the way of stories, or short stories, or extracts from longer stories. This is because I’ve not been writing anything but poetry. Partly it’s that I never feel like I have enough time to dedicate to story writing. This isn’t exactly true, but I’d have to be very piecemeal on my story work… and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

It’s also because I’ve come up with a new game. It started when staying with my brother and his housemates over the summer; I asked them to give me a number between one and eighty, and each of these would be one of my poems that I then had to go back to and try to fix up. Yes, I have about eighty “unfinished” poems on my computer these days, although even the ones that are “finished” and posted on here could be fixed up a bit.

So I’ve got a new way to drive myself to write poetry. Feel free to give me one or two numbers in the comments below. Now all I need is something to get me back on the Longer Fiction Wagon. NaNoWriMo (which I’ve failed at for several years) is going to rear it’s ugly head again soon, though I wonder how much I’ll like the idea of working on my story for an hour after a full day’s work, every day for the whole of November. Probably I won’t get very far.

Continue reading “Cartography”

Eloy

Hello. Won’t go on about the failure of November – suffice it to say the story was like bile congealed into words. I should’ve chosen something much more fun and easygoing as my subject.

November’s a silly month to do this kind of thing anyway. As a result, I’m going to do a self-imposed NaNoWriMo in February. I still have all the encouraging emails that famous authors send out to get you to keep writing. And I didn’t open them. So I’ll open them all in February in the appropriate weeks, and let’s see if I can write a fun and trashy comedy about “Persuasion and Pirates“. Or something.

So. I’ve got a godson! I don’t have any decent photos of him yet, but I’ll get some soon.  He’s the son of my friends Claire and Paulo. I met Claire on my first day in Spain, and Paulo soon after, and we’ve been friends ever since. It’s kind of an unofficial godfatherhood, as they’re not getting Eloy baptised, but I still have the title. Went to see him in hospital when he was less than a day old, the teeny cutey, and came home and wrote this sickly sweet poem, and promptly sent it off to Paulo, who read it to Claire, and she cried, so it reached its target audience. With that in mind, I don’t care if you guys think it’s crap. Although I think the last verse is pretty shoddy.

Me and Eloy

Life

It starts in the soul
(though some disagree),
this brimming and bubbling
feeling of glee.

It climbs up the throat
and reaches your lips,
grabs hold of each corner
and pulls to the tips,

spins up through your brain
and out of your top
and down to your toes
you think it won’t stop

’til all of you’s filled
with a powerful glow
of feeling so strong
it will soon overflow –

a baby is born,
and with this new life,
new life smiles within
both you and your wife.

Lack of Progress Report

This.

This handsome creature is to blame.

me and nick

My NaNoWriMo is progressing slowly. These next 4 days are much less busy than the previous week, so there’s a reasonable chance I’ll get a good bit down. But I’m massively behind my target.

I figured I could post extracts here to spur myself on, not just to up my word count, but also to make something of some quality. Unfortunately, quickly scanning what I’ve got doesn’t seem to reveal a great deal of merit.

The scene for my story is Barcelona, which is actually a pretty smart move for me. I seem to be quite bad about writing about the place where I am – it’s places where I’m not that draw my creative eye. So this is a good experience, in that it gets me to observe my surroundings and try to describe them. Also, if I ever get stuck as to where to take the story next, I can pick a scene, somewhere in Barcelona, and hopefully while I’m lavishly detailing that scene, some ideas will come to me.

Here’s a description of an apartment in the story, hopefully the scene of many interesting events to come…

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It was one of those big-rooved, small-corridored, dingy little places you see, with two shuttered windows out onto the thin grey street, and two or three more that opened out on to a dark, close, inside balcony.
For those of you who don’t know Barcelona, they’ve got these inside balconies all over the place, and sure, they let in a bit more air and don’t take up to much space, but they’re depressing. In the centre of a whole block of house, there’ll be this big open column that’s like a hole in a donut. People hang their washing out in here so it dries, so there’s often a smell of warm soap, especially in the summer. Then they open their kitchen windows, so it smells of garlic and salted cheese and whatever else they’re eating that’s got a strong enough smell. Then their windows and blinds are open and up, and the lights are on, so you can see across and see what they’re doing, with their equally poky grimy kitchen and their balding heads and hairy arms. And of course, you can hear them all. The couple upstairs who aren’t speaking Spanish or English, but something more foreign, and their screaming kids. The dour wife of the working man, who frowns at her washing and her cooking. The unemployed guy. Those Swedish music-lovers across the way. A couple of quiet ones, I suppose, but mostly, it’s this claustrophobic tunnel of darkness and light, noise and smells, and most of all, no privacy. I suppose the feeling of never being totally alone is a comfort to some – in fact, some of my friends love it, and it seems to be pretty Spanish to me. But me, I can’t stand the lack of silence, the peace, the time to be yourself with no one judging.
So, this house. It was the middle of autumn, so it was often dark outside anyway, but inside, what with the shutters and the indoor balcony, it had a dark corners even when they had the lights on. The furniture was probably brought in from the street – more wood with a cloth cover on it than anything comfortable to sit on. A few plants. A rug on the wall, and darkly painted rooms to absorb what little light was left when you turned on the floor lamps. Perfect for when you’re hung over, don’t get me wrong. And a little white neon-lit kitchen. Of course, Tom wasn’t much of a chef at the time – now, at least he’s passable – and I imagine the kitchen was a bit of a mess of dirty dishes and bowls.

Right. Back to work. See you on the upside of 15,000, I suppose.

Third Times the Charm (Or How I Cheated And Learnt About Myself)

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This year will be the third time I attempt to do NaNoWriMo, and as it draws closer and closer, I’m starting to feel that I should really get some ideas in place before I start. What’s going to happen? Who, at the very least, is my protagonist? …. No idea.

The first time I had a go at this crazy old scheme, where you have to write 50,000 words in the month of November, it was 2005. I was living in a big old student house in the middle of the icy, dangerous outskirts of Durham, with barking Alsatians, a barbed wire fence opposite my bedroom window* and 12-year-olds smoking out of the front door**. I was cheating. By which I mean I was still out to write 50,000 words, but it wasn’t new fiction. It was a novel I was trying to write (and one I still haven’t finished). I’d got about 20,000 words written up. I was using NaNoWriMo to get me further on the same old story. Gasp, that’s breaking the rules, you say. Well, it didn’t work anyway. I ran into a writer’s block, and as the story was precious to me, I couldn’t just bulldoze through it with some new idea / character / plot change like you can in a “proper” NaNoWriMo. So, I think I got about 22,000 new words down and stopped.

I tried again last year. Only this time, I cheated big style. See, I wasn’t really into the idea of writing a whole novel. I wanted to write a long short story or two, so I was using the word count as an impetus to get me tapping away on the keyboard. I actually got a complete short story down, one passage of which you can see here. (I should actually go back to that story and re-write it. It’s been a year now, I’m sure I’ve got fresh ideas for it. Also, there was always a scene missing.) I also decided that any poetry I wrote would be worth a triple word score, like Scrabble. And STILL, with all that cheating, I made it to 35,000 and no further.

Despite this blatant bending of the rules, I don’t regret either decision. Both ways, joining the NaNoWriMo scheme made me write more. When I saw other people from my local area bumping up our collective word score, it gave me a sense of nationalism (Woo! Come on Spain, we can beat Italy!). When I had friends doing it, too, it gave me someone to compete against. But most of all, it got me in front of a computer doing something I love – being creative. And I can look back on the things I wrote in those times and look at them with pride. A lot of it is pretty good, and I like feeling good about achieving something physical.

This year, though, I’m doing it properly. It’s going to be a new story idea, something I come up with hopefully in this week before November 1st. I´m going to try and write 2,000 words a day, because I know there’ll be missed days along there somewhere.

And I’ve got people to compete against and encourage. Some Barcelona teachers, past and present. My boss-and-friend-and-mother-of-my-future-godson, Claire. And quite possibly my twin brother, too. And as we almost never compete, it’ll be quite nice to get some rivalry going.

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Especially as I’m going to win.

* I lived opposite a huge Tescos. the fence around the space where the lorries dropped the goods every morning.

** It was the only place they could hide from security cameras. Also, they climbed up our walls and peered in at the windows.

TOAST Part 2 of 3

Wasn’t sure if I should post the second part in a Mid-Week post or not. See, with NaNoWriMo just round the corner, I should conserve what written material I have, as I’ll be busy writing crap all through November, and that might limit my posts.

But then I thought – what the hey? It’s nice to stick all three parts back to back, and it might make me write more new stuff to get this up.

For those of you who missed it, go back to Part 1 before reading this.

TOAST (continued)

They walk offstage hurriedly together. Throughout this scene she is eating breakfast half-dressed, and the audience can hear Tom and Mike off stage frantically whispering.
MIKE: She must have come back with you. I wouldn’t forget a woman like that. I don’t think.
TOM: Come on, we were both pretty hammered.
MIKE: Yes but – what’s her name? Where’s she from.
TOM: I’ve never seen her before. Not in a pub, or a club, or on the street. I think I’d remember a figure like that.
MIKE: Let’s have another look, now I’ve woken up.
TOM: No! She could see us!
MIKE: We’ll be quiet. Let’s see if we recognise her.
Silence. Slowly, the pair poke their head out past the curtain, watching her intently. They look at each other, and shake their heads. They look again. Following conversation is all in whispers.
TOM: Well… come to think of it, she does remind me of someone…
MIKE: Well?
TOM: I don’t know why though…
MIKE: Come on! Who?
TOM: I don’t want to say – (looks at Mike’s angry face) Oh, all right. My mother.
MIKE: Your MOTHER?!
She stops chewing, and turns around fairly slowly. They quickly pull back. She looks back to her breakfast. Faces re-emerge.
MIKE: No, I don’t see the resemblence.
TOM: Well, you have to trim a few years. In the older photos, she used to –
MIKE: Oh I see, and I suppose the –
TOM: Exactly. Just a few details.
MIKE (chuckling): And she’s got your –
TOM: Let’s not go into that.
Heads go out of view. Voices from off stage.
TOM: (shakes his head) Look. We’re going to have to go back in there.
MIKE: Why?
TOM: Well, we just have to! She could be there all day! She might want a ride home!
MIKE: I suppose we could try and get her to tell us, without asking.
TOM: Yeah. So what are we going to say?
GIRL: What are you two doing back there?
TOM (out loud): We’re just coming!
MIKE: Wait!
TOM: What?
MIKE: We can’t go out together!
TOM: Why not?
MIKE: It’ll make us look gay, or something. Attached at the hip.
TOM: Okay, then. You go in first.
MIKE: If I look like I’m getting stuck in the conversation, come in, and change the subject.
TOM: Okay.
MIKE: Okay.
TOM: GO!
He pushes Mike on. She turns around. He goes to get his coffee.
GIRL: Cold enough for you?
MIKE: Hmm?
GIRL: The coffee. Is it cold enough?
MIKE: What? Oh yes, the coffee. Yes. It’s just the way I like it.
She looks at her cereal as he drinks a sip. He grimaces in disgust, but manages to swallow it.
MIKE: So, I, urm… I can’t remember how we got back last night. Did we take a taxi?
Tom is poking his head out.
GIRL: You can’t remember? I drove us back.
TOM: (whisper): She was sober, and she came back with us! Or even – with me!
MIKE: Did you? I don’t remember… er… much… I mean… well, the early evening was clear – I mean, crystal, ha ha, every little detail, you know? Except, you know, by the end…
GIRL (almost to herself): Oh. That is a shame.
MIKE: Sorry?
GIRL (smiling curiously to herself): Oh nothing. (leaning forward) So, what was the last thing you remember?
Mike looks urgently at Tom. Tom comes in.
TOM: Oh. Hi. Is there any jam left, or did we finish it last night – er, I mean, yesterday morning?
MIKE (relieved): I can’t remember. Check in the cupboard.
TOM: Yeah. Okay.
Tom walks to the cupboard. Silence, which Tom feels he has to fill.
TOM: Urm… yeah, I can see the honey, and the Branston pickle… and…. Yeah, there’s some jam at the back.
MIKE: What flavour?
TOM: Er… apricot.
MIKE: Have we got any strawberry jam?
GIRL: I’ve got the marmalade out.
MIKE: Good. Don’t worry, Tom, I’ll have the marmalade.
TOM: Okay.
Tom brings out the apricot jam, and puts it on the table too.
TOM: I’ll make us some toast.
MIKE: No! Let me! You sit down, have a bowl of cereal. I’ll get the toast.
TOM: No, I’m fine.
MIKE: But you always burn it! (to the girl) He always burns it.
GIRL (grinning): I know.
TOM: Yes, but – you know?
GIRL (as if it was obvious): Of course I do.
MIKE: Of course she does.
TOM: Tell you what, we’ll both do our pieces together.
They walk to the toaster, and get out some bread.
TOM (frantic whisper): How does she know that?
MIKE: That settles it. She must have come back with you.
TOM: Yes, but if I’ve never seen her before, how does she know I burn the toast?
MIKE: You must have had some last night.
Together, they lean over the toaster, looking into it.
GIRL: What are you doing?
They jump.
MIKE: Er, I think that the far sides hotter.
TOM: One side’s always hotter.
GIRL: You both make a bit of a fuss over breakfast, don’t you?
MIKE: Yes, well –
TOM: Most important meal of the day.
Silence.
TOM: So…. Have you got any clean clothes? For today, I mean.
GIRL: No, but the ones in my room will be fine.
MIKE (whispering): Wait! Which room did she sleep in?
TOM: One of us should go and check. You went first last time, so it’s my turn.
MIKE: Right.
TOM: I’m just going upstairs, to get dressed, while I wait for the toast.
Mike sees him leaving, and realises he’s been tricked.
MIKE: W-! oh, never mind.
Tom exits.

toast

I hope this is building the tension. Don’t brace yourself too much, it’s not the most astounding ending.

Cunning Plan

Hello readers.

I appear to have lost my fear of deadlines. Also, my will to write. I think it’s stressing about all the things I’m not doing but should be, mostly finding more work in Barcelona, and finding a job in Japan.

Deadlines are good. They usually make me work really hard so I get it done, if it’s only 20 hours until that deadline passes.

baldrickSo, here’s the plan. I’ve got about a week left at home, and then I’m back to Barcelona. So for the next two weeks, I don’t have to write, and I won’t be posting anything here. That’s right. But I will post something by October the 4th.

Several reasons. Maybe I’ll fear a bigger, more distant deadline more than I currently fear little ones that keep passing when I’m busy or away. Maybe I’ll write a whole load of stuff during the next two weeks, free from the pressure of deadlines, and then I’ll be able to upload little bits each week and keep ahead of the game.

Oh, and while I’m here, I’ll let you know I’m considering doing this year’s NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for interNAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth (it was originally just National, but they liked the letters), where people write 50,000 words in the month of November. If you’re interested in more info, go here.

This will be my third attempt at this, November never being my best month for writing anyway. Also, on both previous occasions, I’ve used NaNoWriMo to help me kickstart some novel ideas I’ve already had. This time, I will do it by fully abiding to the rules of the game, and as such, the work I produce will probably be a whole load of junk. Still, it’s writing, and I need to write more.

Bye now for two weeks, keep well in my absence.