Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sometimes Blog

Sometimes when I’m in the mood, I jot down thoughts and ideas for The Blog.  So right now, I have several interesting, witty things with which to update, but I don’t have time to craft the posts.  Mainly because

So instead, The Intention this week was to post up more in The Series of Rubbish I Wrote As A Child.  However, a lot of pictures for this are on The Phone, and The Computer has decided to take after me and is being a complete JERK.  It now refuses to accept that The Phone exists, so while I work out these technical difficulties…

…here’s a quick post to keep a space filled.

I’m currently reading The Life Of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell. 

Although it is a little dry in places, I cannot put it down, as I feel drawn to Charlotte Brontë’s life.  Maybe in the same way that my increasingly dog-eared copy of Jane Eyre keeps reappearing in my hand when I’m supposed to be doing other things.

Anyway, the biography is an infuriating book at times, one for being full of hints and assumptions, never laying anything in the concrete, because most of the people mentioned in it were still alive at the time of writing, so Gaskell had to be careful of libel, and two for having great swathes of French in it with no English translation.  I haven’t been able to follow a word of the relationship between Charlotte and M. Héger just because I’m too stupid to be able to read a word of a language I spent five and half years studying.

But The Main Feeling is that it is so depressing (so given The Current Mental State, is probably the wrong choice of book).  When Charlotte was about my age, she said thus:

My youth is leaving me ; I can never do better than I have done, and I have done nothing yet.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Rescue Of A Dead End Life

The starting point for the year, I seem to recall, is something called…

I don’t know exactly what this lotion is supposed to do, but I have an inkling that it’s some kind of snake oil that’s supposed to improve your life.  And I seem to have, once again, forgotten all about it.

But before I have to make some more, perhaps there is time to salvage this year.

I vow to be better. 

Obviously I can’t actually change. 

But if I try to sort things out, that might help a bit.  Have less of this sort of scenario:

I need to actually do things, instead of uh, not doing them.  That’s the trouble with living with The World’s Greatest Procrastinator. 

It rubs off.

So, life improvement step one: I’ve been trying to get up earlier.  Instead of doing this:

But before I can move on with anything, I need to sort out the room, instead of just shoving all important documents and rubbish under the bed and in the wardrobe.

The journey of a thousand miles…

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Back To Insanity

In the last week I have gone insane.

And not the fun kind of insane like Daffy Duck.  Nor that other kind of insane, where you retain all mental faculties enabling you to continue life exactly the same as normal except you’re a genius and are allowed to get away with naughty things, as seen in ‘insane’ characters in TV and film.

Instead I have the kind that I have no patience for when I see it in other people.

I have sunk into melancholy. 

I am not melancholy when I write.  Writing is always wonderful.

And there are other things that keep me happy.

Such as

Compulsively reading Jane Eyre.

Or watching series one and two of Rev. at the same time.

But there are times when I fail to distract myself, the melancholy rears, and I am faced with a phantom email. 

When I was young and even more stupid than I am now, I created a character. 

This was long before The Epiphany and I had filled the mind reading classic literature such as Pride And Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Sherlock Holmes.  And so my style of writing was disgustingly, ignorantly archaic and The Mind operated along this style too.  And this character spoke not in a modern dialect, but in some fanciful idiolect with dashingly archaic tendencies.  He wasn’t like the other boys and girls I knew.  He didn’t talk about sex; he didn’t push for what I was not prepared to give.  He was poetic and sensitive, and so sarcastically witty he was like a razor slicing the dullness out of my life.  He had talent too.  He was the personification of all those classic characters, but he was here in the modern day.  He wrote me notes full of warmth and meaning, he made me laugh, for the first time in The Life I thought I had been noticed for who I was, and I felt better for knowing him.

But he was just a character.  Underneath was a real man I never knew.  A man I continually failed to impress.

I know the character could never have existed except in the imagination, because the reality now, the real man as he is today, has nothing to do with that person I saw then.  But I miss the character.  Continually.

Though the man is out of sight, out of mind (invisible madman), the character enters The Mind quite uninvited.  I miss the character sorely.  I wait for him to seek me out.  And every email, text message, letter or knock at the door that isn’t this fictional being come to say that I was all right after all, kills me a little.

And finding myself inexplicably mired in melancholy, the mind locates these old wounds and points them out, by poking them.  And in this tiresome mood, I obsess.  I rewrite in the mind an email.  But I never type it out, never send it.  Because there is no one to send it to.  I made up the character I want to talk to.  And the real man has nothing to say to me.  So I sit, obsessing, until it hurts the stomach and there is no relief.  He never comes, he never will come, because he isn’t real.  But I want to feel again as I did.  I want to be happy.

2016 EDIT: The following year I think, I actually did write and mistakenly send an email, which caused a very embarrassing argument, and snapped me out of this melancholy as well as finally destroying the fictional idol, so I haven't experienced these feelings of loneliness or inadequacy since.  Catharsis is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Aimless Writing

Here is the rule for how to begin a story.

Writing a story, like archery, needs an aim before you start. 

If you just go for it without a proper aim, the result is likely to be unpleasant, painful and not very rewarding.

What you originally intended as the aim can change as you write, of course.  Probably some kind of air current/wind direction analogy should go here but I was never very good at archery.

My three sort of basically complete MSS all ended up in different places to where I thought they were going when I started.

Working Title: Rigor Morris was originally going to be about Pauline helping Morris be nice to people, which in the finished draft is now only one comic scene towards the end and Pauline isn’t even involved. 

Working Title: The Road To Confidence was supposed to be about Hannah working alone while Clark was in prison, but that soon got scuppered when I realised that Clark was such a strong character that he needed to be in it throughout. 

Working Title: Timing was always meant to have a depressing ending, a sort of inevitability to it, but when I got there, that wasn’t right at all and the entire tone of the novel changed.

But you still need that aim to start with.  Otherwise you’re just typing.  And typing with no aim is basically hitting the keyboard randomly.  And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve sat in front of a piano and just pressed the keys, not once has a beautiful concerto come out.

The problem I have is the story I want to write (and when I say want to write, I have already typed 400 pages of rubbish) started as a story in my head to amuse myself when I was bored.  I made up a bunch of interconnecting characters and set them in motion, so the same characters could relive the same day a dozen times with completely different results, and although they did progress and grow, still they lived parallel lives over and over.  So when I decided to write them down as Working Title: The Selfish Dead, I basically had a soap or a comic, with plotlines that lasted years and restarted all the time.

So.  Sit down and figure out what the AIM is.  What the POINT is.  What you want to get from the story.  This is your — NEW ANALOGY! — acorn.  And as we all know, from little acorns, mighty oaks do grow.

So I did pare down all these parallel universes, right on down and down, right to the very basic level.  And discovered.

I had three acorns.

And what do three acorns do when you plant them together?

No.  They choke each other and die.

The point I’m trying to make here is:

Thursday, 13 October 2011

When I Read Novelisations

When I was young I read novelisations.  I suppose it was an easy way into books.  You liked that film, now you can read it.  But later, I grew up. 

I am currently reading the Back To The Future novelisation by George Gipe.  I bought it during an eBay addiction several years ago and since I am attempting to read everything I own in hopes of clearing out The Bookshelf and only owning things I actually like, I have to read it (as first mentioned in my post Mr Tinderbox).

The book itself may be wonderful.  But here is a line from the book, from page 4/5.  See if you can spot what it is that I don’t like about novelisations, fanfictions and others of that ilk.

He fixed young McFly with his most intimidating gaze, hoping to panic him into either a confession or further punishable arrogance.  Instead, the infuriatingly good-looking face framed by medium-length brown hair simply stared back.

Well, I’m glad that clears that up.  I don’t think I could have read any more of this book without knowing what length McFly’s hair was or that his face was framed by it.  I mean, it’s vital to the story.  How could I possibly imagine him travelling through time if I didn’t know that his hair was ‘medium-length’ whatever that even means, or ‘brown’ for that matter.  ‘Brown’ you say?  Well that changes everything.  It’ll be a totally different perspective with which I’ll read it now.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Before I Could Write - Part 2

One day a certain idea came to me that I should post up on The Blog stories I wrote when I was a kid.  So welcome to chapter two of The Hill’s writing, pre-epiphany (i.e. when I was rubbish).

Here’s a story I wrote when I was six or seven.

Self Portrait

First, here is my autobiography / future prediction for myself from that time:

My Life

When I was a baby I used to eat what was on the floor.
Then a couple of years later I went to playschool.
Then I went to school and had my photograph.
And then I will go up to middle school and do slightly difficult work.
When I grow up I am not going to get a job.
Then I will get married.
Then I want some children.
And then I will be a grandparent.

My Predicted Marriage

Well…  Isn’t that nice.  Good to see they really inspired us to reach for the heights.  And hey, I am unemployed.  Apparently, I’m living the dream.

Okay, here's the story:


I was on my carpet.  And I was pretending it was a magic carpet.  But it turned into a magic carpet.  And it took off.  And it took me to the dreamland.  And when I got off I turned into a princess.  A fairy came.  And made my brothers appear.  Then I found seven mice.  And suddenly a very big wind blew me and my brothers to a rainbow.  And I got the treasure.  And I got back to my carpet.  And then it took me to where the Acorn Green people live.  Then Bobby’s dad said have some worms and I said no thank you by the way Bobby is my toy.  Then I took the worms and then I fell down a hole filled with poisonous snakes and then I woke up it was all a dream or was it the worms and the mice were still there.

It was all a dream - OR WAS IT?  A true classic.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Morals And Stories

Of all the high thoughts and morals I have spouted in my life, only one is something I truly believe in.

“Don’t do that,” he said.
“What?” I asked, shaking the glass so the ice spun around fast.
“Don’t spit out your drink.”
I had already taken another gulp, so had to spit it out the window.  “But I don’t drink.”
“Then why did your pour yourself a whisky?”
“When I was little, I wanted to be a whisky-swilling, cigar-chewing, card sharp loan shark.”
He stared at me.  “But you don’t drink or smoke.”
“Vices lead to weakness.”
“Isn’t gambling a weakness?”
I put my feet on the dashboard and crossed them.  “I don’t gamble.  I cheat.”
Scene from Working Title: The Shovel PI ms, by LJ Conrad.

I don’t have much meaning in The Life.  As a child, I dreamed I would grow up to be a thieving, hard drinking, smoking con artist card sharp loan shark PI (which is odd, because I gave other people the impression that I was a puritanical… puritan).  But if there is any meaning in The Life, I suppose it is the vegetarianism. 

I became an official vegetarian, I am told, on The Sixth Birthday, although I believe I had been phasing meat out for a while. 

I loved animals.  No one told me that I had been eating HACKED UP DEAD ANIMALS.  If they had, I wouldn’t have the touched the stuff.  Soon I learnt what was in the beloved sausages and meatballs. 

And that was pretty much that.

I have never touched meat since, and avoid any other animal products that involve killing the animal, though I have not gone full vegan. (2016 EDIT: I went vegan some time in 2012, after educating myself further and learning that the dairy and egg industry kill plenty of animals, especially babies.)

What is on The Mind right now is should the vegetarian agenda be in The Work?  I couldn’t, I think, in good conscience write a scene in which a protagonist sits down and eats some meat, but, food not terribly fascinating me, I might say ‘he ate some sausages’.  I did not specify whether those were pork or soya.  But should I?  Should I set the example?  Or will it get distracting that every single book I write is populated with vegetarians; hardly realistic, terribly repetitive, and it would look like I am incapable of writing characters who aren’t me. 

Of course I regularly write characters doing things I never have or never would, because it’s a story.  And I find myself admitting that there is a perverse joy in writing a character frying up some bacon or sporting a leather jacket, because it is so removed from me.  But then, this is The One Moral in life.  It’s the one thing I have chosen to live The Life by and it is terribly, terribly important.  Is it more important than The Stories?

Perhaps it is safer to stay on the fence and continue not entirely describing what they’re eating.  But sometimes it is necessary.  I’ve almost completed the redraft of the World War II ms, Working Title: The Road To Confidence (now with more blitz), and I do often describe what they’re eating with rationing and all, so various fish and offal and others are swallowed.  If I wrote a character in a historical novel as vegetarian, that would be a bigger deal than nowadays and since it isn’t important to the story, it would be an irrelevant plotline to follow.  And nothing should ever be irrelevant in a story.

But then, a tiny part of The Mind is whispering, am I betraying the cause?  What if someone reads a scene in which the character eats some meat, feels peckish and eats what I have described?  Then that death is on my head.  Or can I kid myself that I have counterbalanced it by having the protagonist rescue a pet rabbit from the chop?  I know I put that in to assuage The Horror that during the war people cooked and ate their pets. 

I don’t know what is the right path.  And being a vegetarian isn’t something I tend to discuss.  Meat-eaters don’t seem to understand that vegetarianism isn’t just a quirk or a dietary preference, but a moral belief system and lifestyle choice and that even a flippant mention of meat is deeply upsetting.  The most difficult part of becoming a vegetarian isn’t the change of diet, the lack of places to eat out or the guilt, but the stupid comments people will make.  When I go out to eat, inadvertently acquaintances discover I’m a vegetarian, and will say one of the following without fail, and may even squeeze in all three.

The stubbornly argumentative:

The bafflingly hostile:

The terrifyingly jolly:

I hate going out to eat.

And I still don’t know what’s more important, the story, or promoting the one thing in The Life that has any meaning.  I just can’t turn my back on either. 

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Before I Could Write - Part 1

It was soon time for me to exert my innate writing ability; like Mozart to music, so I to writing.  Still an infant, I began to pen masterworks. 

Oh no, wait, I was rubbish at writing for many, many years.  I could barely read when I was a kid, but faced with the sheer heartbreak of The Mother’s disappointment and disapproval, the fact that all The Friends were in The Top Reading Group, and my love for stories, I did pick up.  My handwriting was abysmal, and every single school report complained of it.  And, well, everything I wrote pre-2005 (pre-epiphany) was dross, although this didn’t stop me from sharing it with every single person I saw.

And HOORAY, I’m going to put some on the blog!

This is one of the first stories I ever wrote. 

I was five or six. 

Self Portrait

 I’ve had to correct the spelling, because it was written in GIBBERISH.  I only worked out what it said using the pictures.  I’ve put in brackets how I spelt the names of the animals in the original version.

The Elephant That Never Stopped Changing. 

One day an elephant (elfit) started to change he went purple and he said to a rabbit please help but the rabbit couldn’t help. 

Then he went yellow with spots and he met a horse (hos) but he couldn’t help. 

And then the elephant turned into a horse help me said the horse to a mouse (mas) and the mouse turned the horse into an elephant again. 

And the elephant kept the mouse and they had good games together.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Progress Of Writing

For most of the week I’ve been getting out of doing anything by whining, “But it’s my birthday.”  I will stretch this out for another week if possible, since my party isn’t until next weekend.  But, having passed another birthday, I think it’s time to take stock.  Then I can focus.  And then… what is it? 

Oh yes,

What was the last thing I did?
A week ago, I entered a live short story competition.  I had half an hour to write in.  It was the most excitement I’ve had in ages. 

Whenever Hannibal says he’s on the jazz in The A-Team, I never know what the hell he’s talking about.  But after that competition, I was on the jazz.

Just found out I didn’t win.  Irritating, especially since it was on the birthday weekend, but first entry is free, so I didn’t lose anything and I can’t really be upset over a story I spent less than thirty minutes on.  I’ve never spent that little time on a story in my life.  Plus, I wrote it as a cathartic exercise to help me get through an unpleasant experience, and it did help and I suppose, morally, it would be wrong to profit from the death of an innocent.

And yet, I disliked the way the news was broken. 

It said it was a tough one to call.  Not the three winners, they were easy, but the other seven in the top ten.  Well, I got into the top ten.  So what they’re saying is the story was so rubbish, they knew straight away it wasn’t going to win, but that every single other entrant was of the same standard and I only just scraped top ten.  And I know I was somewhere between 7th and 10th place (I don’t think it was a large competition).  Flattering.

Besides, I’ve read the winners and they were over-written; full of description and so many similes I thought I’d drown.  It’s not a style I write in.  I write direct, concise, sarcastic, dialogue-based, character-driven stories.  That’s Hillesque.  And that obviously isn’t the style the judges go for.  So is there any point entering again, when I’ll have to pay?  You don’t send to a magazine when you don’t fit the style; is it the same with competitions?

Hmm, hmm, hmm.

What am I working on right now?
Working Title: The Road To Confidence – originally supposed to be my first novel, about two con artists in World War II.  I’ve been doing some more research.  Really excited to re-edit it with the new knowledge, but have to finish reading a couple of books first and I’m getting impatient.  Enough reading, I want to create.

But when I need a break from war research and that’s often…

I’ve been typing away at Working Title: The Selfish Dead.  This is a vaguely pointless project.  I once made up a bunch of characters to entertain myself when I was bored.

And eventually I thought I should probably write them down.  They don’t work on paper half as well as in the head though.  I did manage to get two completely unrelated stories out of it, then recently I took what was left and I’ve now written about four hundred pages of just… I don’t know.  It’s just a story about some people.  It’s heavily flawed, just came out of having three ideas and writing continuously without much thought.  Okay, so no planning isn’t usually my style and that’s kind of evident in an over-inflated word count, but at least I’ve found stuff to say.  I’m sure it must work out eventually.

About half way through, two of the characters get married.  So I've asked my recently married friends (remember them from Time To Wave Good-Bye To Youth) about what it's like planning a wedding.  Hoping to get some interesting responses.  People often seem to think talking about their lives, stuff that is ordinary everyday to them, must be dull.  But as a writer, who doesn't have a life, I find it all fascinating.  A couple of years ago, I had some really intriguing conversations about office work.  To them, office work is tedious; to me, it’s some Brazil-esque landscape of excitement (never did get up the guts to ask old school friends to reminisce about being teenagers though).

What is the next thing to do?
I really need to get back on the ‘sending stuff off’ wagon.  Lurking in the complete folder are twenty-five short stories and children’s stories of varying lengths (246 words to 8,875 words) and the comic fantasy novel I’m trying to get an agent for (two rejections so far) Working Title: Rigor Morris.  Whenever I do send stuff off (to comps), I seem to get told they really liked it, but it didn’t quite make the shortlist.  Is that just lying or is it good?  It’s not good enough.  Anyway, once I’ve bought a new ink cartridge for the printer, I’m going to send Working Title: Rigor Morris to lots of agents at once, instead of this slow one at a time process.

Completely accurate depiction of Working Title: Rigor Morris:

Who wouldn’t want to read that?