At the risk of disappointing some of my friends and readers, (Scott Perkins being one of them), I have at almost the last minute changed tack on this year’s NaNoWriMo project. I had mentioned previously that I was going to take on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Miserables and revisit parts of the story from the viewpoint of the supporting characters, the Thernardiers. And indeed I was building up a head of steam, what with reading the novel and brushing up on some French history.
But then I had a dream (though not the same one Fantine had) which really put the mockers on my original plan. I can’t describe the dream because I don’t really remember too much of it. All I was left with was a feeling that reality had somehow shifted. When I picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami’s new novel 1Q84, I took this as a sign that I was on the right track again.
My new project is called Wish and this is the synopsis you’ll find on my NaNoWriMo profile page.
“After breaking up with his long-time girlfriend, Steven Pepper is attacked by a group of boozed-up teenagers. Left licking his wounds, he wishes for a different life, one where he makes the right choices and is rewarded for being a good person.
On the cusp of achieving what many thought was impossible, Terry Gall wishes for the one thing he lacks: immortality.
It is 2014. Ireland is the one country left standing after a global recession has all but shut down the world’s financial markets. Someone, somewhere, made the right decision: a first for a country used to following rather than leading. Journalist Louise Harrigan wishes she knew who it was.
All three get their wish — and nothing will be the same again.”
We’ll see what happens.
National Novel Writing Month is just over two weeks away. To this end I have come upon an idea that I think will carry me through these “30 days of literary abandon.”
Having decided to not play it safe this year and write within my (limited) comfort zone, I will take on a challenge. For those of you who have read the book or seen the musical Les Miserables, you will know it features the innkeepers Monsieur and Madame Thernardier. In the novel they are an unscrupulous and devious pair, and they represent the true arch-villains of the piece. I know it’s Javert who is in pursuit of Jean Valjean but he’s not a true antagonist because he follows his own moral compass; he believes in God and the Law. The Thernardiers are a different story altogether, though.
In the musical they are used for comic effect and as such are good characters to play around with. So my challenge for 2011 is to reimagine Les Miserables from the viewpoint of the devilish duo. As part of my research I am reading as much as I can of Victor Hugo’s mammoth 19th century novel. This in itself is as much of a challenge as NaNoWriMo.
As an aside, I have to work out whether I want to portray the characters as they appear in the musical – comic relief – or in the novel – much more complex. I’ll work on this closer to the time. So enjoy what follows this post. I had the pleasure of seeing Master of the House performed live on stage recently and it is one hell of a showstopper.
I needed this today. Maybe I need this every day.
Image is courtesy of The Sounding Furrows
It’s not enough to say you’re a writer; you must have something to show for it, some kind of proof. Whether they’re lines from a poem you wrote when you were four, or outlines for the next Great Irish/American/British Novel, a writer, fledgling or otherwise, will have something written down. Somewhere.
I was tidying out my bedroom the other week when I came across a hand-written manuscript dating back at least ten years. Three things surprised me. First, my handwriting is terrible. I can read the parts where I wrote when I was sober. I can’t read the parts where there was drink taken. You see, I wrote most of it in my local pub. I sat at the counter and drank while writing the book that would make my fortune. I was the source of much amusement to other customers, as well as the owner of the establishment.
The second thing that surprised me is the way the story made sense, in a surreal nonsensical kind of way. Each paragraph, each chapter contained scenes and dialogue that to this day fills me with a certain amount of pride. It had Beatles lyrics sprinkled about the place; it had spectral observers; it had angst and unrequited love – all in 27 drunken pages. Stephen King had nothing on me.
The third thing that surprised me is that I wanted to know where the writer was going with his story. Namely, where did I want to go with it? Was there an endgame? Would the story be worth pursuing? Was it important enough to me to continue?
And that, for me, is the crux of matter. When I was young, I read comic books – as I’m sure most of us did to some degree – but I would copy the story into a notebook, using the pictures and speech bubbles as prompts. I “wrote” Judge Dredd and Strontium Dog stories from 2000AD. I used Captain Kirk and Mr Spock as templates for new adventures set in other universes. In other words, I used my imagination. It was important for me then, and I guess it’s important for me now.
I don’t drink any more, but I now work in the pub where I started my then magnum opus. I may go back to it one day…when I have the nerve to do so.
As a writer I’m about as prolific as film maker Terrence Malick. But this salient fact doesn’t take away from the urgency I feel whenever I let my sense of creativity lapse into the doldrums. Writing, quite simply, is something I must do; an activity that is as much part of my nature as the need for food, water, coffee, sleep, friendship and more coffee. If I lack in any of these essentials, I suffer. So it is when I don’t write in a way that’s meaningful. (Emails and texts don’t count. Blogs do – but only to a degree.)
In case you’re wondering (and I hope you are), this is not just another blog about writing. There are many to choose from on the Internet (among the very best is my friend Richard Scott’s Uphill Writing), so I don’t particularly want to add to an already growing list. Rather I want to write about my writing. By this I mean my reasons for wanting to be a writer, the highs my chosen life brings, the lows it hits me with, my dreams and nightmares.
I don’t really believe in writer’s block per se. I just know that I have an inherent laziness that needs to be conquered if I want to get anywhere near realising my dream of publication (by any media on offer, not just the traditional way). And so I’m beginning a new series of articles on this blog. I mean to dig deep into my heart and mind and offer to you the reader an insight of how I might shrug off my ennui and get stuff done. It is only by writing that stuff will get done.
I look forward to your company.