Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Pole Dancing Writers


A good friend of mine, Janet Cameron, has just been given a commission for an article about how writers fund their writing projects, novels, degrees, etc. She is in the process of tracking down an American poet who funded her MA in Creative Writing by pole dancing in a San Francisco Club!

Meanwhile, she has asked me if I know about anybody else who has done anything unusual or eccentric to fund their writing and who would be willing to contribute some comments. Unfortunately, I don't - but maybe you do?

You can either post your contribution as a comment below, or leave your story on Janet's blog:

Many thanks, Bloggers!

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Voice of the Narrator

At last night’s meeting of Deal Writers one of our group brought her work-in-progress for us to discuss. It’s a Victorian-set story, a kind of whodunit with a nicely original theme. It set me thinking about how difficult it is to get the ‘voice’ right in these cases. The author has to decide whether the narrator should be modern or Victorian, and that will reflect the style of the novel. For example, in Michael Cox’s The Meaning of Night, Cox used the device of pretending he had ‘found’ a lost Victorian manuscript. That way he could write a first person confessional using pure Victorian syntax. When John Fowles wrote The French Lieutenant's Woman, on the other hand, he decided on having a modern narrator who repeatedly interjected to point out the differences between ‘then and now’. Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White is even more outrageous, addressing the modern reader directly in his brilliant opening paragraph:
Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flatter you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether.
When I was studying creative writing at university I was told every writer has, buried somewhere within them, a unique ‘voice’. By the end of the course I was beginning to write a bit like Nick Hornby used to, the way Jonathan Tropper writes now. My tutor congratulated me on ‘finding my voice’.

Now I’m not so sure. I wrote like that because I was writing semi-autobiographical ‘romantic’ fiction, and a Hornby/Tropper style just happened to be the right ‘voice’ for a male writing about modern sexual/romantic encounters. When I write fiction for women’s magazines I seem to adopt a completely different persona and my ‘voice’ is softer and less matey. And when I’m writing crime fiction I have a third persona – more hardboiled and cynical.

I’m not sure if this means I haven’t really found my ‘voice’. I just think a writer is different from the narrator of the story she is writing. This is obviously so in first-person narratives. But I think it is equally true of third-person (and the rare second-person) narrator, too.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Doesn't Time Fly . . . ?

I can't believe it has been a whole month since I last posted anything on my blog! I've been plugging away at my current work-in-progress, a novel with the working title The Crimson Teardrop. So far, it's going reasonably well. But it has also been taking up all my time!

Well, not all my time. I've also been catching up with my reading, getting stuck into my 'to be read' pile. Trouble is, for every book I finish I seem to have acquired three or four more! This year, I'm keeping a list of every book I read. I know it sounds a bit anal, but come December when people start asking me what was the best book I've read this year I won't have to rely on my shockingly poor memory.

I'm currently reading a paperback I bought in pristine condition for 50p from a market stall in Deal on Saturday. Gone Fishin' by Walter Mosley is the prequel to the Easy Rawlins series. According to the blurb on the back, Gone Fishin' was the first book Mosley wrote. I wish the first novel I wrote had been half as good! In fact, I wish the same of theone I'm struggling with now!