Levels of Writing

After some weeks of frustration – a new idea might be opening up. In a few words: less talk about people and feelings, more about a country, a society, culture and history. Seeing people as tiny elements of the bigger forces and collectives.

It feels very liberating.

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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.

Blurb draft

Sharing the new project with some writer friends today, the test-blurb became like this:

“Twelve Months”

In this novel we follow three people over a full year of big changes and new beginnings in different areas of life. There is the established painter who goes on long travels to Italy and Rome for new inspiration, a young girl student discovering a hidden talent after a crushing heartbreak, and the stability of a good friend of the painter’s, who is experiencing growth in new parts of his steady and happy life with his wife.

A short tale of the difference a year can make, in a life.

..

Reflections: It’s very helpful to write a blurb. It exposes the bigger structure and things that might be missing. One thing with this project is potentially the opportunity to strengthen the storylines with more clear goals. As the draft stands now, things happen but only partly as a result of the actions of the people in the story. Which is again maybe true to life, and to reality, but it might be a better story if they work towards a defined goal. Maybe.

Cover; we just briefly played around with different versions of covers in black and beautiful and colors. The one above is the clear favorite so far, but maybe a more sparkling one could draw more attention. We’ll test a few more.

Feedbacks

First feedbacks on the “months” novel are very interesting. As a first planned novel with lots of dialogue, a few things stand out more than they have done in the past. Some of the scenes were returned with comments, and I think we’re beginning to discover something new.. the power of showing, and the power of dialogue. When it works, it becomes like a reality and truth playing out in front of your eyes.

This is partly a thrilling experience.

First edit done!

The first light revision and edit of the “Subdued Eruptions”/”Twelve Months” is done!

As a learning experience and using a structured plan for novel, this has been super interesting. It felt a bit like “filling out the form” reading some chapters, but other chapters were flowing freely and read more like spontaneous and improvised writing.

For the first time there was also a lot more dialogue, which I’m warming up to very quickly. Both because it’s sometimes more easy to write about a topic as a discussion between two people, and because it’s often more interesting to read about what a character says than listening to the narrator voice. The few places in the book where I felt that I got “lost” into the scenes and forgot the bigger frame, was through the tensions and suspense in the meeting and talking between two people.

There is also a very different feeling afterwards, from the shape of this work. If you write 50 pages like a “blues jam”, just improvising from page to page, it could be a great read, but the shape is hard to grab, and sometimes impossible afterwards. Having a nice shape for the story makes a difference in the mind, and how you think about it. Which is something to explore even more in the coming works.

The book is now sent for the first feedback, considering this as an experimental book.

Some concepts that didn’t work so well was to “break” the magic of the more sheltered lives in places, and write about bigger scale politics and dangers to the cities and the country. But maybe that’s for a larger scale work, or a trilogy, or a series of books. Keeping it as a backdrop that sometimes influences the characters, and sometimes moves the whole story forward. We’ll keep it as a note to self.

 

Time scales

Three days after finishing a story that goes over 12 months, it’s weird looking back and realize that it all happened within two weeks of writing. It’s almost like another year, a separate year, has blended into my own experience of life, and become a part of my own history. Not a real life history, but a year that was lived through from the perspective of three characters. One of which traveled for six months in Italy. That fictional trip has elements that are almost as strong as my own real memories. And some elements are of course drawn from real life experience.

Sometimes writing really is like living through a journey. From a peaceful home. All in your mind.

“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.