Thursday, March 1, 2012

Farewell Facebook and Losing the Plot

I bid farewell to Facebook this week. I notice other friends (hi, Jane Covernton) have done the same. I don't know if people responded to my departure, because of course once you've gone, you can't go back. Well, not immediately.

The problem was, I kept losing my temper with authors who posted minute details of their every waking moment. I started griping at Michael Gerard Bauer, who actually is a good guy, though I guess he must doubt it if he feels the need to post so many details about his apparently perfect literary life. Desist! We approve of you, Michael! You're good! And I was probably a little antsy that The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher appeared on just about every shortlist going last year, but didn't receive a single win. Even Sonya Hartnett (yes, Sonya of Astrid Lindgren medal fame) confesses that this still depresses her when it happens to her. So, it's probably a bad idea to go on Facebook if you're feeling antsy, unless you have the savoir faire to keep your big yap closed, which clearly I lack. I'll return to Facebook one day, because I enjoyed reading the articles that some Facebookers posted, provided they weren't just 'rave reviews' from Goodreads or bloggers. I'll keep blogging about my books here, because I figure you might be interested, since you've made an effort to find this blog, unless you google-whacked me by accident or you were looking for nude ladies, of which there are six extremely tasteful examples on this blog.
 Make that seven.

Something happened this week when I reread my sequel to The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher. I really didn't like it and found myself getting bored by the time I reached the middle, which would mean that the average reader by this stage would have thrown the book down the insinkerator. The problem is, I think, you can't artificially lengthen a story. As I mentioned last post, I had plotted a perfectly good - but short - story involving my heroes and their battles against a terrible cult called The Herophilists - people who believe in dissecting live humans, as was the occasional practice in ancient Greece. Spoiler: I borrowed from Sherlock Holmes in the book's final sequence, when Thomas finds himself on the dissectionist's slab; quite alive and about to be dissected. He even sees the scalpel go into his chest. The Sherlock Holmes 'steal' was a chemical that causes people to hallucinate. The body-snatching group sets up their new base in a millinary warehouse, where the air is redolent with mercurial sulphate: a felt preservative known to cause hallucinations, and one of the reasons that hat-makers gained the reputation for going mad.

But the story came to little more than 30,000 words. Then I tried to interweave another story to 'pad it out', but I don't think you can do that. Unless your A story and your B story address each other, what you end up with is a patchwork mess. In other words, you really do need to plot at the beginning. So, I've decided to cut all the stuff that I set in The Azores. It was pretty, but it wandered too far from the main plot. To quote Sonya Hartnett again, writing isn't just putting one word after another. And yet, this is what it felt like, which is hardly surprising when you obsess about daily word counts, as I do. Then there is the whole business of writing a novel while recovering  from a stroke. If I were a bricklayer I would know when I'm ready to return to work; presumably when I'm able to lay bricks again.
Just in case you needed to be reminded of what a bricklayer looks like. Sorry I couldn't find you a nude one.

But my brain is all I use when I'm writing and I don't know if it's in good shape or not. The fact that I get so upset by self-congratulatory posts on Facebook would indicate, I think, that it isn't. After all, it never bothered me before. Of course writers are egocentric. It's the way we're made. Some of us just pretend not to be and resist the urge to post every bit of cover art or flattering festival photo that we can. I'm also finding it difficult to read 'demanding' books. My sister recommended The Moonstone, which she assured me I would enjoy, but I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over. I love reading. Before the stroke it was one of my greatest pleasures. But now, there are some books that I find very heavy going. Richard Gill (who runs The Victorian Opera) told me that every year he rereads Proust's gigantic masterpiece, Remembering the Past. Last month I started on Swann's Way, the first of the series, but I didn't get much beyond the famous opening sequence with the Madeline cake. The fact that Richard can read this stuff so easily, then go out at night to conduct an orchestra or even appear on The Spicks and The Specks, leaves me breathless.
 Richard Gill - friend and renaissance man

I've been re-reading books that I liked before the stroke, and am pleased to find that I still like them. And I've been writing the odd article and blog post, but does this mean I'm match-fit? I mentioned in my last post that I had a TV gig and wasn't sure if I was up to it. I'm still not sure that I am. The time I spent at the writers' table last week at Fremantle Media in Richmond  was so exhausting that I would have to leave at three in the afternoon so I could sleep and recover. (Mind you, I've produced sketch shows before where most of the writers do that.)

And, is my brain well enough to critique what I've written? My first reaction is to cast aside the body-snatcher sequel and start all over again from the beginning. It's a horrible thought, but it will certainly be a better use of my time than haranguing the needy Facebookers.

Stay tuned. I'll let you know how I go. And sorry, Michael.


Sheryl Gwyther said...

Well, Doug, I'll keep reading your blogs (I subscribe so know when you pop up every now and then), as I enjoy your wit, your honesty and your writing.
So keep going, you lovely bloke! :)
Sheryl (I have met you once before so I'm not too cheeky sending a kiss.)

Dan Verkys said...

You'll do fine, you are match fit, just suffering some doubting devils.. fer not.

the Azores thing was a bit weird. But there were countless groups of occultists practicing many things they shouldn't have back then... worth a look ;)

Keep it in that grimy city, its a character all of its own :)

And yes people have commented and said goodbye on facebook... I'm still trying to decipher the photo of the big cat on the couch?

Keep at it sir, you'll do great.


DougMacLeod said...

Hi DAn,

I decided to keep the Azores thing but weave it more carefully into the story.
I still don't know if it works. I guess thast's up to an editor to decide.
I'm getting match-fit.