Updates

It’s been a few weeks since the last post, filled with more great inputs and feedback on the novel draft for “Twelve Months” and a little poetry project with working title “The Odyssey”.

We also have a little start on a new novel draft, more of the unplanned “grower” type of a book with very little frame and planning, where every day of writing is a little journey of discovery as we take one paragraph or page at a time.

So far the frame is two old men sitting down on a bench in a piazza on a beautiful autumn morning, about to have a very long chat about life. One is the open outward “living life” type, and the other one is a thoughtful and sensitive man who has lived a life and experienced life perhaps more inside of himself than what is actually happening around him.

With this super tiny frame, we can talk about everything in the world and every topic conceivable spread out over the life time of two people, filled with little stories and thoughts, and using both the joyful outward perspective or the introverted nuanced inner world experience. And everything in between.

We’ll try to work some more on the two old men story next week, but how the dynamics and contrasts will play out is too early to tell. Maybe there will be a recurring point about how different people are, maybe the person with the endlessly rich inner life will be portrayed as the more interesting one (it will likely be the most interesting to write, anyhow), or maybe the friendship and dynamics between the two will be a leading theme. It will find its shape and grow, chapter to chapter.

Sentences.

While waiting for more feedback on the novel draft we did a little exercise today, trying to use three different styles on the same substance. A couple is entering an adventure on an island. First short, then medium, then (very) long sentences:

Short ones.

He looked. Fresh water. The boat gliding. He saw the islands.
“Look.” he said.
She turned around. In the deck chair.
There, far ahead. They were getting closer.
“I love you.” she whispered.
A slight breeze passed.
The beach was appearing. Slowly.
They both smiled.
It was about to begin.

Then medium:

As they entered the beach, they could feel the soft and golden sands under their feet. He felt an incredible joy inside. Finally they were here, and the adventure could begin.
He looked at her, as she had closed her eyes and turned her head up towards the skies. She was adjusting and absorbing the air and the feeling of the island. All around them was blinking seas with shimmers of sunlight. And in the middle of the island they could see a distant mountain top.
Around the beach in a half open circle, there were big palms with coconuts. They both felt like they were entering a new world. “This is it,” he smiled to her. “We finally made it.”

Then long ones:

For him there was a subtle feeling of the sand grains on the beach carefully amassing in little formations underneath his feet, that was like a little stroke of a landscape taking shape in the earlier stages of the continents in their infancy and the early fragile years on the planet, at first untouched but slowly and through the forces of nature gradually being molded into their kaleidoscope of terrains and scars after movements and fractures, and then with the passing of times and shifting climates of deep frost, intense heat, the growth of green nature onto the surfaces, until one day seeing the grace of a tiny flower in yellow and pink, blossoming under the sun.
He turned around and smiled at her. She looked back with her eyes shimmering like the seas around them, softly and loving. She then looked down at her feet, and at the golden sands with some new footsteps in them behind her, the markings of a new arrival that would soon be vanished by the winds, as an instant that never seemed to have happened in the long remembrance of the beach, with no deeper impressions but merely just a fleeting touch, and then a soft wind of oblivion and nothingness.
“I’ve dreamt about this,” she said slowly with a voice of contrast and expectation, as the scene of the beach as an element of her imagination and now the reality of the senses were merging into one single sensation of experience, and one of a growing delight and sensitivity that soon would disentangle a withdrawn tension within her, and liberate a new feeling of awareness of the lightness around her.

..

Reflections: It’s very hard to compare such different styles in terms of reading. In part it would be a stylistic choice of the writer, and maybe the style should follow the content, or the mood. But somehow in the longer term, the longer sentences might be more interesting to read several times, as they contain so much more depth, feeling and emotion, and reflection, and hidden substance in the layers of the language. But it is very demanding to read.

As for writing, the longer ones takes so much more time, and energy. The quicker ones are more exciting. And maybe the medium ones are the practical choice to tell a story with some deeper parts to it, but keeping a certain momentum.

But still, it’s probably just the long ones.. that bears repeating many times, and still gives a new experience.

“Subdued Eruptions”

The new short novel has the working title “Subdued Eruptions” at the moment.

This title is alluding to how the three main people in the story are each going through a big change in their lives, but it only refers to the initial threshold that is passed, or the first beginnings of a new change, that will evolve and shape their entire lives into the future.

The biggest moments in life are often, or sometimes, very quiet ones. It happens, when something silently clicks in the mind.

Inspiration

There was a brilliant article about characterization in Proust this morning, that made me remember my own long and incredible journey with the “In Search of Lost Time”.

I started reading the first 6 volumes of the work (of a 12 volume edition) at the young age of 22 and was completely blown away. Then it was picked up again many years later at 32 years old, and I kept reading until volume 12. At that point, it felt like the main character was getting too much older than me, too far head of me. For the first time in reading Proust’s works, there was suddenly so many problems of fully understanding what he meant and why he was writing about what he did. And it didn’t resonate in the same way. So the last volume was saved, until 42 years old.

That is still some years into the future. But maybe we’ll have a little sneak peak, soon.

Draft done!

After two weeks, we have a first draft of the short novel, with 140 pages or about 40k words!

Once we got used to following a plan, with a timeline and developments for the three main people, some outside events, and a couple of elements with symbolism, each chapter transformed into a seperate little task with a clearly defined intention and some necessary substance, which worked well. The word count reached over 6.000 words pr. day (2 chapters, 20 pages) several times.

Now, we will let the draft rest for a couple of weeks, and then read through it.

But this was a splendid surprise. Learning to write with a bigger defined frame was a welcome relief, especially once the story gained its own momentum.

Switching styles

After revising the first 4 of 12 planned chapters this week, we’ve decided to redefine or reconfirm the current project as an experiment and a learning process.

We’ve split the 12 chaps into three distinct parts, to see how it works, and chapter 5-8 will then be part II of the story. By leaving the bigger plan and structure aside for a bit, the words are flowing so much more easily.

It’s also fitting for the story as the main person has gone on a long journey, and will now live in a very different context, with different impulses and evolve in new ways.

But there is a substantial difference between writing as a “blues jam”, building each sentence based upon the one before, not knowing where we’re going – compared to filling out a defined structure.

We’ll keep on writing.

Revising 4 chaps

Today was a busy day with revision of the first 44 pages of the latest project with the working title “twelve months”.

For the first time we’ve been trying to write a short novel after a plan, and the results were a bit mixed compared to earlier projects. Previously we’ve written more improvised from chapter to chapter to see where the story goes, and according to what feels most natural from page to page, paragraph to paragraph.

To some surprise the improvised technique has worked quite well, while arranging the plot lines and developments for three main characters over twelve months (a year, hence the working title), made it feel somewhat stretched out and disengaged and at times, it lost some of the energetic drive or beat.

Where to go from here? We still have 8 chaps left to write but if we want to fill out the whole project according to the plan, we would have to adjust the whole story for the following chapters, to make it more interesting.

Another reflection was this: if things are too planned the language seems to suffer. It becomes more descriptive and action oriented, but loses the feeling of nice sentences that you’d like to read again, or that makes you feel good because of a certain poetic substance or some visual beauty with presence and calm.

We’ll pick this up tomorrow.