I have been doing lots of writing seeing as I have taken a week off to do writing. Mainly because if I don’t do writing, I will go back to work and be annoyed and my borrowers will not get the impeccable customer service I have led them to expect. For example:
Borrower No. 1: I don’t know how you can serve them! (he’s talking about the Vulnerable Prisoners, or VP’s – he thinks they must all be paedophiles, but most of the time, they’re not)
Jenn: I do the books, I’ll chat to anyone about books.
Borrower No 2: She’s saying we’re all the same to her.
Borrower No 1: You think we’re all scum, don’t you?
Jenn: No, I don’t think you’re all scum. If you like Martina Cole, you might be interested to know she’s just got a new one out. Shall I order it for you? Might be a bit of a wait (smiles)
Borrower No 1: She said we’re all scum! I’ve got RIGHTS!
Writing is much harder than this: there is much less conversation, and I like a conversation every now and again. Of course I talk to myself, and for me writing is nothing more than talking to myself, at length, to find out what I think about things. Except it is more dishonest than that. Writing is about rewriting – I don’t know what do to with a blank page (except to write about my borrowers for a little while to fill up some of the space until I can get going) but give me a few thousand words of my quickly-typed thoughts and I can spend a happy few evenings trying to hammer it into a story.
Which is what I have been doing. Ask me how many words I’ve got on my long thing that isn’t a novel. Go on, ask me. Okay – it is…. 13,651. Ta Da!
Editing, rewriting, drafting, or whatever you call it in your part of the world, is my almost favourite thing. It is not beginning, but you don’t need to think about the end either. I’m hardly at middle yet, but I’m just going, making sure it all makes sense. Checking the product for bad writing and taking it out, and thinking of good writing to put in.
Bad writing is description, similes, dialogue that doesn’t sound like real people, things that aren’t true, scenes or images or events that are ‘charming’ or ‘enchanting’, anything that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I think about, anything that sounds like the sort of thing I put in because I was imagining who would read it, or because of a book I might have been reading at the time. It is ‘chilling’ or ‘disarming’ or ‘wise beyond it’s years.’
Good writing is short, and when it is not short it is no longer than it needs to be, it contains not many describing words, no cliches of expression or emotion, no sentiment, not too soppy but not too dark, says what I imagine I think about things, embarrassing if someone else read it, clear, conveys the image or the idea or the person, doesn’t have a purpose other than to tell the things it tells, isn’t like someone else I’ve read recently, doesn’t lie but is more truthful than telling the truth. It is mixed up with real life and things or people that exist outside typing, but the real things and the made-up things can no longer be separated. In good writing there is so much space between the lines and letters that the reader does as much of the work as I have done. Good writing is designed to be incomplete until it is read: it is collaborative. It might have swear-words in it, but it doesn’t have to.
Today I have written about a chemist’s shop, a yoga class, an angler fish, a rock thrown at a Down’s Syndrome boy, a Christmas tree, a very expensive cashmere wrap, a new camera and a man who licks his thumb whenever he thinks about Suko.