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reSenTinG YoUR DArLiNGS

haters gonna hate – even the shit i be proud of, yeah?

Month

August 2012

beat my guest – adam and the ants

My first novel, ‘1919’, which I wrote in 2007/8, deals with the experience of a female-dominant relationship from the perspective of the male narrator.

I suppose, looking back from five years after I began it, it’s easy to see where it came from, what was coming to the boil in my skull at that time.

I’d moved to Liverpool in 2006, to live as a 24/7 pet. that didn’t really work out, so my Owner and I renegotiated the relationship as Mistress/slave, but her heart wasn’t really in it, as far as I could see.

She withdrew emotionally after my teensy wee bowel cancer scare, admitting later “I though you were going to leave me – like the others”. Those were her exact words.

Presumably she’d said goodbye to her previous lovers with them in hospital beds wearing nappies.

So, there I was. Two hundred and fifty miles from home, alone among the scouse-people and living with someone who told me at one point that she “loved me too much to hurt me.”

The concept of the ‘mercy thrashing’, for instance, came about after the death of one of my closest friends. I’d asked my then partner if she’d mind administering a beating. I’m a masochist – physical pain works as a route through emotional pain; and considering I’d lost a former Domme, my mother and now my best mate in a year, a bit of fucking leeway would have been quite nice, thank you very much.

So that’s where my head was at during the writing of 1919.

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f-oldin’ money – the fall

Got up at about 08:30 and wrung out another thirty-four-and-a-half hundred words of ‘Dystopian’, taking my total for the month up to forty-seven-and-a-half thousand.

So far, I’ve added in three of the cut-ins I’d planned with two more to go. I guess tomorrow should see me completing it.

And what a long, strange trip it’s been! Starting a new job the day after I began the draft, having to take a day out, slap bang in the middle to retrieve my property which had been withheld since 2011.

Why, a lesser man would have been microwaved by this sort of pressure.

And I’ve still found time to start on the notes for another project.

I remember reading that Stephen Donaldson believes that the author needs, not one but two ideas, before embarking on a novel.

I take this to mean, plot and sub-plot, plot and theme, or as in the case of Ridley Scott’s ‘Bladerunner, a clash of genres.

This is where I am with the new idea. A few characters and two genres that I hope I can atom-smash together. All I need now is a plot, I suppose! Or two.

Going back to the present, it feels like a lot of time has passed since I decided – right at the very last moment – to write ‘Dystopian’ from end-to-beginning. The calendar tells me it’s just over three weeks since I avoided thinking of this bastard as fifty thousand words and blinkered myself to see only the first one thousand, six hundred and sixty-seven. Then the next one thousand, six hundred and sixty-seven. And so on.

The joy and sense of achievement each I hit a multiple of ten thousand – no wonder Norman Mailer called this process “your night with the bitch”.

money – pink floyd

I’ve mentioned NaNoWriMo before, but in March of this year I decided to see if I had the discipline to write a novel without the support safety-net – before I got too used to it and reliant upon it.

Part of the writing process, for me, is the constant search for new ways to do things and keep myself from getting bored.

So, March’s task was do write, NaNoWriMo style, but without a real deadline or any writing buddies or cabinmates.

It also coincided with the dole and triage, the (ahem) workfare provider sending me for a million different job interviews, none of which I had any chance of getting.

So, basically, March was spent frenziedly shooting all over Fife, trying to appear keen to start work, while at the same time, trying to stay focused on the *real* job in hand – my fucking novel.

Triage have to be the single most useless tory-ridden poverty-pimps I’ve come across. Falling into their hands meant that I wasn’t eligible to become self-employed, I wasn’t allowed to start a college course in running my own business – that I’d done all the legwork of finding.

And to cap it all off, although I’d kept them abreast of all my various addresses during my period of homelessness from November to January, they rang to complain that I’d been ignoring the letters that were being sent to an address I’d told them I’d left six months previously. Oh, and there was the little matter of my having become self employed two months before, too.

the crusher – the cramps

I’m writing this at work. darkness has fallen, all the lord’s critters are tucked up in bed, leaving your humble narrator listening to John Zorn’s Electric Masada and figuring out where to shoehorn in that extra scene to ‘Dystopian’.

It’s an idea I’d had a couple of weeks back, one of those ideas you know instinctively is a beauty – but like any beautiful stone, it has to be polished – and it needs the right setting.

A bit like my idea for a rape pride march in Edinburgh this summer. it’ll be great if we can get George Galloway to lead that off!

But I digress. ‘Dystopian’ is now pretty damn close to completion. Ten thousand words to go and I reckon the opening chapter – as well as this extra scene – will suffice. I also have nine more days to finish it on time.

108 – head of david

National Novel Writing Month (www.NaNoWriMo.org) takes place every November and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.

NaNoWriMo (as well as camp NaNoWriMo, now held in June and August) give one the opportunity – and encouragement – to attack a novel, to squeeze out a first draft in a month.

After a life spent waiting for something like this, I’ve hurled myself into it and, using the programme (and, in March this year, pretending to) I have written five first drafts in the last thirteen months.

And yes, it is down to perspiration, not (so much) inspiration. Doing this once will teach you how easy writing a novel actually is, doing it several times in a year rams home how much better you’re getting over that year.

An artist friend once told me that if you draw something every day, it doesn’t matter if it’s a skinhead or a kettle, after six months, you’ll be amazed at the difference between your early attempts and today’s. Plus, after six months, even the casual observer should be able to tell which are the skinheads and which are the kettles.

I read a really good quote from Ernest Hemmingway earlier – “there is nothing to writing – all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Oh, and those five first drafts? ‘At home, at work, at play’ (July 2011), ‘The last film’ (November 2011), ‘Light entertainment’ (March 2012), ‘No feeelings’ (June 2012) and ‘Dystopian’ (August 2012).

isolation – joy division

Another thirty-seven hundred words and that’s me cracked forty thousand words with one chapter (about two A4 pages) left of my outline to go. From my present perspective, I can’t see that amounting to more than six thousand words, so on tonight’s sleepover, I’m going back through that outline to see if (and where) I can shoehorn in another scene or two.

Having worked through the very end of chapter three and the whole of chapter two this morning, I’ve been looking at his sense of otherness among her people.

In writing this, i’m drawing upon my own, broadly similar, experiences over the last six years.

Since I left Edinburgh in mid-2006, I haven’t really put down any roots anywhere. not in Liverpool, I wasn’t long enough in Bristol, Edinburgh repels me now and in both places I’ve lived in Fife, I’ve been content to live a fairly insular life.

It’s not just that I don’t like people (although i actually do prefer objects) but I’ve come to realise that nowadays, I thoroughly enjoy my own company.

Living out here, without distractions, I get so much more done.

Of course, at some point, my intelligence will no doubt reassert itself and I’ll realise that all I actually do is work.

And then, I shall put my head into the microwave and there, I shall find peace.

bring the noise – public enemy

A day off work! I’ve already, in less than three weeks, got used to these being a luxury.

Anyway, I slept in until nine this morning, got up and wired straight into ‘dystopian’. There’s still a slight worry that I ll run out of plot before I hit fifty thousand words, but I think I have it covered.

With this morning’s thirty-four hundred words, that’s me on about thirty-six thousand. Plus, I’ve thought of something I want to embed in the plot throughout which’ll add weight to the ending.

It’s strange, having to balance all that with ‘are there enough hours in the remainder of this month to complete this?’

I suppose there’s always something to worry about when writing a novel, the trick is, not to take these fears any more seriously than the process of hammering out the words through the keyboard and up the screen.

I’ve been listening a fair bit of the kilimanjaro darkjazz ensemble, particularly their 2006 self-titled lp. Over the last few weeks this lot have taken over from Miles Davis, who’s probably soundtracked more of my work than anyone else (yes, even throbbing gristle, even navicon torture technologies!)

kill! – alberto y los trios paranoias

Up at four and another nineteen hundred words of ‘dystopian’ before work. I had a feeling this wouldn’t be a ‘three thousand day’, after my taking a couple of days off to do Saturday’s gig and generally rnr-ing in Edinburgh. and by ‘rnr’, I mean ‘compering, performing and finishing off the cut-ins for the dvd’. anyway that’s it all done (for now…)

It’s always the same after I take a break – a day or two, getting back up to speed.

When I was writing ‘light entertainment’, back in march, getting so much hassle from triage, the local workfare provider, I almost never got a good run at the writing, having to fit it in around endless interviews for jobs I didn’t have a hope in hell of actually getting. And that’s the real magic of the various conservative governments I’ve lived through, isn’t it? Giving all the money away to their millionaire friends and attacking the poor over the shortfall.

Still, I finished the bastard (although it took me thirty-seven days) and it was, at sixty-eight thousand words, the longest draft I’ve written to date.

I have two days off work after today, so I’m hoping to press on and hit forty thousand before the end of the week. It’s doable.

I still have that wee niggle that I’ll run out of plot around the forty thousand mark, but I’m hopeful I can dredge up sufficient memories to get to fifty.

can’t stand my baby – the rezillos

I’ve just written an e-maul to a friend living abroad, detailing the events of this year. Fucking hell, bring it on, Mayans! It’s only now, adding it all up, I can see how antithetical things have actually been.

And it’s a testament to my indestructibility that I haven’t gone under during this. If anything, I’ve emerged stronger than before. I’m deeply proud of all four novels that i’ve produced during this time of pressure: the end of ‘the last film’, the whole of ‘light entertainment’ and ‘no feeelings’ and ‘dystopian’, the second half of that written while getting it all back and having to clamber over it all.

As Raquel Welch once said, “how much you learn depends on how much you can stand” and I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Living for as long as I did (eight-and-a-half months) with nothing to lose, I’ve had the time to examine a few of my life-principles. and found that they still hold water. That I can still live by them.

This is where strength comes from. From the knowledge that whatever life throws up in my lap, my value-core is as strong as when things are groovy.

The I ching has been a real pillar in my life since 1986, when someone bought me the Wilhelm translation for my birthday.

It’s always been there, throughout those difficult days and the guidance is just as useful when my entire life doesn’t hurt.

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