I’m in the middle of watching episode something of the new incarnation of Nikita. It’s no Dexter or Mad Men (in my opinion, the best two shows on TV right now), but it’s easy, palatable viewing. It takes about as much mental capacity as Burn Notice to watch but has plenty of action and the odd pithy one-liner.
Going back to Dexter what a fantastic finale double-bill on FX last night. If you haven’t watched it yet, do so as soon as possible – it’s great, shocking stuff. I think Dexter is one of those shows that is so consistent in its quality and season four didn’t disappoint. Mad Men was on cracking form this week too. Also in its four season, Don Draper was trying to put together the broken mirror that is his life. There were some frankly superb bits of dialogue and Draper’s journal entries (delivered in monologue) were thought-provoking and genuinely moving. Of all the TV shows I’ve ever seen, I think this one is probably my favourite.
I’m in my living room at the mo. Nikita is about to end with some ludicrous cheesy rock track - I missed a fair bit but I reckon I’ll pick it up. Shakespeare’s sat on the sofa just behind me, while I drink coffee and eat oatmeal and raisin cookies – yum.
I’m procrastinating, of course – you do realise that, right? I’m at the 91,000 word mark on Fall of Damnos and am putting off the last 5,000 or so words. It’s tough finishing a book. It’s that moment where you’ve almost reached the end and everything (hopefully) is coming together. It’s a stark moment of reality when you can see the book for a whole and whether or not you think it’s any good. I’m liking how Damnos is turning out but I want to make sure the ending is strong that it works and the writing is up to scratch. It’s one thing I think about a lot – writing.
What I mean is the actual nuts and bolts of it. I analyse a LOT. My training was in media and cultural analyse, I deconstructed films and scripts at college, did the same to novels using narratological tools as uni – I guess I just like taking things apart to figure out how they tick.
It’s the same with the writing. I have a style for sure. I know that I’ve done enough that I’m talking with my own voice and not emulating someone else’s. But I analyse and hone that style all the time. I like to cut words out; trim to perfection, hopefully. I think using the right kinds of words are important. It’s not about digging out a thesaurus and having at it. No, that’s not a good way to go. Words are subtle in meaning and application; some are right for the occasion and some are wrong. I think every writer has certain words they like to use; you’ll see them crop up time and again in their novels and short stories. They’ll also have words they don’t like; harder to spot because it’s the absence of them that gives these words away. Certain words in certain stories just feel right. It can be about the characters and the dialogue, but it’s also about what flavour or mood that word evokes. I think about this a lot.
Structure and pace are at the forefront of my mind as well. I like to use curt sentences in action scenes and flick between PoVs. I’m also a fan of juxta positioning. Done well, this technique can be incredible for providing pace and tension. In Fall of Damnos and Firedrake there are multiple story threads all heading off at once. Some of the threads are separated by viewpoint, others by chronology. Handling them together, making them work and punctuating each with the right frequency is something I look at too.
My bookcase is full of books on writing. I’m talking Writer’s Digest stuff, here. I have just read Save the Cat a book about script writing of all things (thanks, Aaron) and that was massively interesting concerning words of wisdom about structure. I was talking to an aspiring writer yesterday about this very thing. There are lots of books out there about writing. Read if you want, there’s no shame in that. But remember this: they’re not bibles nor are they a sure fire way to succeed as a writer. Take stuff from them, even if it’s just a small section or a sentence that makes you think differently about doing a certain thing or thinking in a certain way. Absorb what’s in them, think about it and apply what’s useful to you. Modify if you like. Key thing to remember is you’re learning all the time, adding to your knowledge, expanding your horizons – we all are.
Well, those are my thoughts for the day anyway. Granted, they’re a bit rambling but those are the best kind.
Have fun, peeps and enjoy the rest of the weekend.