Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Slow day...

The writing hasn't really happened today. Before I explain, I suppose I should introduce the book I'm writing, and why I'm writing this book, not looking around for another one.

It started life, really, as something between a short story, an aborted novella, and an overlong character study. The original character was a Norwegian returning to his homeland after serving in the first world war. I had all sorts of visions of knitting this character into some kind of cross between a quest-for-the-kraken (with deep meanings throughout, although I never got round to establishing what they might be) and a satirical romp through the last days of the golden age of exploration, maybe with a look at the deeper meanings of brotherhood chucked in, too.

Mercifully, that soon died, but the character stayed with me. Now he's knitted into the background of what's unashamedly being designed as a commercial thriller. I'll say that dirty word again - commercial! I've always enjoyed reading thrillers - John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum for occasional brainless fun, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, some of Jame's Patterson's stuff for young adults (my daughter's 12, and I keep up where I can. I managed about five chapters of Twilight before all the sidelong glances and pent-up vampire lust got too much). So, when I decided to take a year out, writing a thriller was on the short-list of things to write. I'd also contemplated a novel commenting on the themes coming out of brotherhood, and polishing my short story writing, an option I quickly discarded: it had only made the list as a means of avoiding what I really wanted to do - write a novel.

When I researched the options, cast around for storylines, and tried to envisage what a finished version of this book might look and feel like, I quickly found out just how huge the thriller market's become in the last few years. I'll be totally unashamed about this - if I can make some money out of doing this - make it my living, then I'll be a happy man. I also like the constraints of writing to a genre - the conventions we expect to be there when we pick up a Lee Child or a Tom Clancy.  There's a set of rules there to stop me from disappearing up my own arse.  From an artistic point of view, too - there's much to like:  I've always had a special kind of loathing for the most self-consciously literary verbage that could have been designed only for the appreciation of those that work in other English departments. (A.S. Byatt, take a bow...)

I've got to admit to having had a few qualms about developing the mechanistic approach that writing a thriller calls for, versus the short stories I've been writing -with their evolution from pure language - what we might recognise as a more artistic gestation. There's enough stuff that that throws up to deserve its own posting, so that's what it'll get, next time I'm stuck for a subject.

Meantime, I'm going to take the dog, the van, the laptop and the board on a mission down the coast tomorrow: catch some waves, watch the dog dig to Alaska, and hopefully find a big bundle of inspiration while I'm at it. Today was another bitty day of fatherhood and frustration - tomorrow is all for me, and I've got a wife-pass to prove it!


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