9 May 2010

Even the elephant in the room has grown tired

Me, I'm a textbook case of fear of failure and/or success. As I'm nearing the end of the novel (my first, though I've had several attempts at others) I am starting to look for and find excuses not to write. Less than a thousand words written last week, which is woeful any way you slice it. I've simply got to put in the time and effort next week - and stop running away. Face the fear and write it anyway, if you like.

Change of subject. I finished reading Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island on Friday night. I wanted the book experience before the movie experience since as you all know movie versions are often worse and spoil what might have been a terrific read. Anyway, Lehane's Shutter Island (as opposed to Scorcese's) is my favourite read of the year so far, with a series of final twists that left me feeling completely drained. Might explain why I didn't write at all on Saturday. As good as the ending was it left me in a deep dark funk that I'm only climbing out of on Sunday morning. Yes, it's that dark. Still, I cannot recommend this title enough. Amazon UK are currently selling it for £3.59, which is probably the best value for money you'll get for any book ever. Hyperbole aside, it's worth it, and I for one am salivating at the thought of seeing Martin Scorcese's take...

Back on subject. I started this post talking briefly about nearing the end of the novel, so I'll end it by talking briefly about the beginning:

Ella Bradburn was the last of the schoolchildren to step off the bus.

I wrote that, the first line of the first draft on Feb 12, 2007. It's not a great line, not even a good one, but it was good enough to start me on the trip. For anyone who hasn't written a novel and is seriously considering it, I have found it demands either a lot of faith or a lot of stupidity. Since I'm not quite done yet, I still don't know which it is. I figure that is what has been scaring me away from the keys this week, too. That and the fact that I was 11 or 12 years old when I first caught the writing bug and I'm 34 now. It's a long time to wait and work on your dream; a dream that - still - might never come true. There he is: the elephant in the room. Even he's grown tired of waiting. And if he could speak, he'd say something like, it's simple, Steve. You just get on with it. After all, when you've come this far, there's nothing else you can do.

Faith or stupidity?

If only I knew.


Sophie Playle said...

Go for it! Wooo! You can do it! Nearly there :D

I had no idea Shutter Island was a book. I really liked the film, but now I'm worried that it would have ruined the book because I know the twists. Still think it's worth it? I might leave it a year or two to let the details slip from my mind...

Steven J. Dines said...

Thanks, Soph :) I need to keep kicking myself to get this thing done.

I think you should still read it. From a writing POV alone, it still has a lot to offer - brevity; good, no frills dialogue; plot structure - i.e., plenty to absorb.

Dennis Lehane also wrote Mystic River (movie directed by Clint Eastwood) and Gone Baby Gone (directorial debut of Ben Affleck). I'll be reading more of his work, for sure.

Cate Gardner said...

We've got to have faith (oh god, now I have that George Michael song stuck in my head).

Enjoy writing the end.

Ian said...

Well, I just ordered my copy of Shutter Island (free postage to Aus from the UK!)

Steven, I imagine finishing a novel is like finishing a piece of carving - flaws and oddnesses in the proportions are becoming more obvious and the possibility of adding one chip too many, or too few, looms over you. I've written three feature scripts and finishing them was definitely the hardest part.

All the best with it. Are you joining us at the new Critters?

Steven J. Dines said...

Cate - lol. Thanks.

Ian - let me know your thoughts on Shutter Island once you're done.

As for Critters - I'm stepping back from the whole workshop thing for a while, but I might drop in and see how everyone is doing at a later date. All the best.

Ian said...

Same to you Steven - I should mention that, now that we have 25 members, maxie is putting up a challenge with a £100 prize... (correct use of ellipsis for a change)

Steven J. Dines said...

Very generous of him. Tempted as I am I have to stay focussed on this project til it's done.

Bob Jacobs said...

Good luck, Mr Dines. I'm sure you'll see this through, and wish you the very best of luck and success.


Steven J. Dines said...

Thank you, Rob.

Rich said...

You only have to look at your bio and some of the publications you've had, and the proof is all there. The simple fact about making it, is this: No bugger (maybe one or two) is going to make it from just short stories.

Novels are everything. Yes, this is an extreme view, but I sincerely believe that to be the truth. Even mediocre writers who get on and finish novel after novel get some of them published.

I heard some advice a while back that I think is sound: 'It's not the most talented people who make it, its the ones who don't give up.'

Stick at it, and write the fuck out of your ending.

PS: If nothing else, you've given me the bug: see blogpost.


Ian said...

Yep, what ART said. I don’t think I’ve got a literary work in me, but I reckon I could knock out a readable airport novel or two if I knuckled down (and found a good editor!)

Regarding “Shutter Island” – I finished it in about 12 hours, and enjoyed it. I didn’t know what the twist was, guessed most of it by the time I was half way in, but I think writers tend to be looking for twists more than most readers (and know how few of them there are that are original or that work). That fact that I couldn’t put it down and sat up until midnight to finish it testifies to its compulsive quality. What’s more, I want to see the film even more now.

Anyway, as Rich says, just finish it. You can always re-draft it, or just chuck a total wobbly and take up rock fishing…


Steven J. Dines said...

"write the fuck out of your ending" - love it!

Cheers, Rich. Good advice, taken.

Ian, I still haven't seen the film version but I'll get around to it soon. Hopefully, before my memory of the book has faded.

I've made myself a promise. No more complaining about the book. And my next post about it will be announcing the first draft is done.

Rich said...

Hi Steven,

Not sure if you'll pick this up, but could I take you up on the offer of an email chin-wag about novel writing? I'm starring into a deep dark pit and not sure where the hell I'm going. Just be good to get your perspective on some of my hang-ups.

If you want, drop me a line at arthurritus3000@aol.com or stop by my blog.

I'll owe you one.