Bloody-mindedness

Well, this week sees the announcement of the results for the BBC End of Story Competition. For those who don’t know too much about this, a number of bestselling authors contributed incomplete stories for would-be writers to finish. A book of these incomplete stories was distributed throughout bookshops in the UK.

Writers completed the stories and submitted their half-masterpieces to the BBC. You can see a bios of the winners of the Shaun Hutson story (the one I completed).

This whole business brings back the frustration of competitions. You send off your entry – usually accompanied by a fee, though not in the case of ‘End of Story’ – and hope against hope that something will come of it. Nothing ever does, of course, even when (in the case of some writing friends of mine) an entry is very good, arguably better than the winner. This whole lottery aspect of writing is one of its biggest frustrations. The way to deal with it is to keep playing the game. How do you beat long odds? By repetition and bloody-mindedness.

It hasn’t escaped the author that this how the mind of a Lotto player works.

This week I’ve submitted a story called ‘A is for Apple’ to Interzone, a keystone in the arch of British science fiction. I’ve also submitted a radio script to the BBC. We’ll see how it goes. No doubt the same way as my ‘End of Story’ submission, but if I were a pessimist I wouldn’t be a writer.

Reading the classics

Today sees the start of my new blog, which is designed to express views and opinions about writing and publishing.

‘Reading the classics’ is one of those things that every writer knows he must do but can’t seem to find the time to do it. My own list of classics is ferociously long and, like some amorous dog, seems reluctant to let go of my leg until the aim of the exercise is complete. What is the aim? I guess the writer wants to have Shakespeare, Proust, Updike, Bronte et al. at his fingertips – somehow the classics will become mixed with the work that the writer produces. Dead authors will speak out yet (sorry, John).

What’s a classic? No idea. But to this glorious end, I’ve been reading a couple of classics of late. Wuthering Heights is one such – and a cracking read it is too. By turns stodgy, athletic, poetic and plain irritating, I can fully appreciate why this book is regarded as a classic. (Nice, too, to see an esteemed book breaking a number of the ‘rules’ put forward by creative writing courses; made to be broken by Bronte.) Another choice, which many will find controversial, perhaps, is Breakfast at Triffany’s by Truman Capote. This author was an old sparring partner of Norman Mailer, and his verbal jiggery-pokery is fully evident in this wonderful story. I haven’t seen the film, but may yet; for the time being, the writing of Capote is Technicolor enough. A fine, fine writer. Classic? No idea.

Must dig out my Madame Bovary

Well, it’s another weekend and here I am in the department fiddling with my references. It’s tempting to hire a research assistant (pile on the debt, why not). I’m also cultivating a nice virus, which doesn’t help the general PhD gloom.