This is genius.
For my sins, on October 24 I’ve been invited to give a talk as part of “The Write Direction”, a seminar put on at Stephen’s College in Columbia by the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers’ Guild. I’m quite used to standing up in front of a crowd of strangers to talk about estate planning, but this is something else again. Here’s what the program says:
“Session IV: Time to Write- How to Find it and What to Do With it
Alex George wrote his first two and a half novels while working full-time as a corporate attorney in London. He has just completed his fifth novel while running his own law firm in Columbia, MO. Here he will share some tips, techniques and suggestions that will help you:
- Organize yourself and your life to give you the time you need to write
- Maximize productivity and efficiency when writing
- Make steady progress in your work
- Stay motivated
- Manage your expectations
- Develop stamina and not lose heart
- Find a way out of writer’s block
- Enjoy the process!”
Watch this space. With the help of a certified internet genius, I have been working to upgrade this site from humdrum-but-free wordpress.com to the swankier-and-not-free wordpress.org, which allows me more flexibility with lay-out, design, and so forth. I hope you will find the site easier to navigate and enjoy. With a bit of luck, it will also be easier to find. I’m lookin’ to get me some Google-love.
Anyway, this all should be coming soon. I predict a few more grey hairs in the process, but hey, we all have to suffer for our, uh, art.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t even think about my next book until Paradise was done and dusted, but I’ve been struggling.
I know that if we get an offer from a publisher there will inevitably be rewriting and editing to be done to the manuscript – the question is not whether, but how much. Because of that, I am reluctant to start getting too involved in any new writing projects as it will be difficult to switch gears between the two. I’ve never been one for multi-tasking. Even one thing at a time can be a bit much. Still, while I’m enjoying writing this blog and deliberately not working on any fiction, I can’t stop the old wheels turning. Almost without trying, an idea is slowly crystalizing in my brain about Book 6. Paradoxically, given my epic problems with titles in the past, I even have an idea what to call it: “A History of Flight”.
So, right now I am in full magpie mode. In this post I talked about where ideas for stories come from, and I am presently in the happy situation of being bombarded by curious little thoughts – nothing grand, to be sure, just little snippets of ideas, possible plot ideas, and (best of all) small details which flesh out the characters in my mind. My job is to spot these ideas and write them down before they waltz away from me.
For me, characters tend to come before plot. They develop over time, until I’m ready to work out what to do with them. This is an exciting stage in the process. I never go anywhere without a notepad these days. It seems I can’t drive down the road without seeing something that sparks an idea. Of course, many of those won’t make it anywhere near the page, but my internal editor is switched off right now. The trick is to let them come while they may – I can always weed out the bad ones later on. At the moment these nuggets are scribbled down all over the place – backs of envelopes, notepads, random bits of paper. Today I am going to buy a small leather-bound notebook and will put everything down in one place. The act of transcribing ideas often gives rise to new ones. Sometimes the lucky juxtaposition of two unconnected thoughts forms another, greater than the sum of its parts. (Sometimes.)
Best of all, while everything is quietly fermenting in my head, I give myself a pass on writing anything. I don’t want to put metaphorical pen to paper too soon. In a funny way, sentences on the page are the enemy of promise – once you begin to tell the story, you get hemmed in by the words and it can be difficult to wriggle free and follow another course. So it’s best to wait until the last possible moment before starting to write. Make the most of those ideas while they come.
Update: You will see from the comments section that one of my correspondents, the lovely Hellen from the UK, suggests I use a Moleskine notebook to keep track of my thoughts when they arise. Excellent advice. In fact I had already bought one – bright red, thank you very much, to distinguish it from all the other notebooks I have lying about. You could do worse:
Here it is, as promised – the schedule for the upcoming season of world-class live jazz in Columbia, Missouri, complete with links to various artist sites, etc. Don’t say I never do anything for ya.
October 16, 2009 – Jim Widner Big Band with Bobby Watson
November 3 – Pat Martino Quartet (with Eric Alexander)
November 22 – Christian McBride and Inside Straight
December 6 – Kurt Elling
December 31 – Bobby Watson and Horizon
January 21 – Mark O’Connor
January 31 – Stefon Harris and Blackout
February 13 – Branford Marsalis Quartet
March 7 – Rufus Reid Trio
April 11 – Clayton Brothers Quintet
April 17 – Conrad Herwig Latin Side All-Star Band
In addition to these gigs there is a series of jazz films being presented at the RagTag Cinema, which I am looking forward to. There’s also a “jazz, wine and beer crawl” in downtown Columbia on September 24, whose title speaks for itself, I think. It’s the big fundraiser for the year, and always great fun – live jazz in every venue and then a post-crawl party at the Blue Note on 9th Street, where there’ll be “Music Sampler” from the Roots N Blues BBQ Festival, which starts the following day.
I’m blown away by this schedule – Jon Poses has worked miracles again. I’m looking forward especially to guitarist Martino, Christian McBride, and the Clayton Brothers – I have heard wonderful things about John Clayton’s son, Gerald, and I’m looking forward to hearing him play for the first time. Oh, yeah, and Branford won’t be too shoddy, either.
Spotted this out of the front window a couple of days ago. Someone has been shedding his skin on our lawn.
We have in past summers played host to a black snake who was probably about as big as this one. Not sure if it’s the same guy.
Frankly, I’m not that interested in finding out. Snakes – just one more thing they never told me about before I agreed to move to mid-Missouri. Thanks, everybody.
Update: we saw him yesterday, in all his slimy, scaly glory, sleeping beneath the big white box on our porch where we keep all our outside stuff. We think it’s the same guy. I know black snakes are supposed to be the good guys, and that they eat all sorts of undesirables, but come on, people. They’re still snakes.
Final, tiny polish before submission tomorrow: exorcising last remaining anglicisms. I found one “pavement” and seven “autumns”. Damn. Thank God for search and replace. Scratching my head trying to think of other tell-tale signs…