Wednesday, April 05, 2017

It's Novel Fair Time Again

Last year, more or less on a whim, I entered the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair. I was about halfway through writing a book I thought was properly good, and was certainly topical, and I wanted a deadline to give myself the push to finish it. So, I paid over my €50 as soon as the Novel Fair opened, then spent the period between April and October getting my first 10,000 words into as good a shape as I could get them.

I took a couple of very useful courses. I know some people doubt the value of courses. Another writer told me that his colleagues make fun of him for taking courses in writing. "Don't you know how to do it by now?" That kind of thing. But people go to yoga classes every week for years. And art classes. And dance. So why not writing? There's always something new to learn. And there are always other writers to meet. Plus, you know, you can steal people's ideas. (Just my little joke. Obviously I do not do this.)

I paid an editor to polish my entry (missus). This was extremely valuable for a whole lot of reasons. Obviously, the main one is that a good editor lifts your writing from readable to really pretty good. Another is this: did you know that you don't have to make every change the editor tells you? After twenty years in the tech writing business, hewing closely to the style guide at all times and bowing to the superior knowledge of my editor/SME, I found it very freeing to realise that if the editor wanted to swap "handsomeness" for "good looks", I could refuse to make the change.

I got a synopsis written. This is horrible, and everyone hates it, and somehow it's much harder than writing the whole actual book, but I got it done.

And, hey, I must have done something right, because I was shortlisted.

I got my novel finished, edited, beta-read, and re-edited. And people who read it liked it. I met the other writers. We flapped about how worried we were. We discussed bindings and bulldog clips and Strepsils. So much excitement and validation and fluttery nerves and camaraderie.

The day itself was a lot of fun, too. Obviously it did not go as well as I would have liked, but that's alright. It did go very well for other people.

But, you know, Jacob turns the wheel, or whatever.

A few years ago, I read an interview in the AV Club with a blogger who had been a contestant on The Biggest Loser. She talked about the close connection all the contestants end up having with the trainers, and how it all gets very intense, and the trainers promise they'll keep in touch when contestants leave and the season finishes. But, this person said, you rapidly discover that the connection, as deep as it might have been, is temporary. Eventually, even the neediest former contestants get the hint that they had their turn, and they have to get out of the way and let someone else have their turn.

The 2018 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair opens for applications soon, and in another ten months or so, there'll be a new crop of writers getting the phone call. Maybe they'll actually be expecting it. I hope it makes them as happy as it made me.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Arrival of Spring

The biannual changing of the clock has happened again, and, as usual, it seems to be too much for people to deal with. Not only is Twitter full of people making the same Stonehenge joke, but the 6 Music news this morning carried a report from a group that wants to keep BST all year round because "it would create 38,000 jobs in the leisure industry," because apparently it's the clocks changing that makes it get dark early in the wintertime, and not, I don't know, our latitude or something.

Anyway, ever since the time a friend accidentally turned up two hours early for a breakfast date on the first day of BST, I've developed a method of coping with the forwards/backwards motion of the year. In the autumn, when we get an extra hour, I watch a crappy film. The kind of film that makes you say, "that's two hours of my life I'm never getting back," because I can at least get one back on that magical night in October.

But in the spring you lose an hour, so it's important to spend that Saturday night watching a really good film so that the three hours you've spent on it will have been worth it.

Arrival is one such film.
Amy Adams tries to remember whether it's now 9am or 11am

If you haven't seen Arrival, I recommend you learn as little as possible about it before you do see it. (Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you anything about it). That's what I did, anyway. I saw the very first teaser, said "yes, I will see this film," and then made sure to avoid all discussion or reviews of it, so I had no idea what to expect. And I can tell you that it is very much the Deep Impact to Interstellar's Armageddon.

Saying that made me wonder what Michael Bay's Arrival would look like. If I were one of those YouTube people, I would now cleverly cut some clips together to make it look like Nicholas Cage was in Arrival, and he would maybe try and hand a bunny through the barrier to the... but Michael Bay didn't even direct that film, which is why it's the one that's good.

Certainly, it would have involved a lot more shouting. That is one thing I really, truly loved about Arrival. It has almost no shouting in it. Oh, and no hilarious paedophiles. Or Aerosmith. Or close-ups of Megan Fox's arse (I realise some people might see that as a negative). I won't say any more, in case I give anything away.

In case you're wondering, I've picked out my candidate for this October. It's this. Who's with me?