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.