Today I finally got round to admitting to myself that the outline for The Yesterday Tree isn’t firing me up as much as I would have hoped. I’ve tiptoed up to the edge of this a number of times over the past few weeks, but today — whilst it was developing quite nicely, with many elements that I like — I had to bite the bullet and accept that it just isn’t what I want to write. The truth is, it’s becoming rather too genre for my liking (there’s nothing wrong with genre fiction per se — I actually really enjoy good genre fiction — but I do find it extremely restricting as a writer.) There are certain themes and ideas I want to explore, and the plot was becoming far more dominant than I would have liked. I can’t see a way of fixing this without it becoming a different novel altogether and so it’s now officially on the backburner. I may return to it, but my past record suggests that I probably won’t.
It also didn’t help that I couldn’t quite see it as a follow-up to Children of the Resolution. I’m fairly sure that should Children be accepted I would face opposition to The Yesterday Tree. It’s just too different, and from a marketing perspective it could have quite possibly been a nonstarter.
It isn’t as depressing as it might sound, however. In fact, it’s a very common situation for me and actually quite liberating. I find ideas need to be thoroughly tested and in order to weed out the good ones a few must inevitably fail. I have something else up my sleeve — a couple of possible projects — but that’s where they’re staying for the moment!
Writing Advice for the Day: Always give a project a chance. Do not abandon a novel simply because you’re having a bad day. But do not be afraid of abandoning it if it continually leaves you feeling half-hearted and uninspired. You must feel passionate about the project. Without that it’s very likely to be a complete waste of time.
© 2008 Gary William Murning
As I sit at my desk, looking out of the window and trying to think of something to blog about, the sun comes out on this otherwise quite miserable and rainy day and quite suddenly I see it. A rainbow. And I am reminded once again of the uniqueness of every viewed rainbow — the fact that if you and I were side-by-side looking at it together you would be seeing a different rainbow to the one I would see. In fact, my left eye sees a different rainbow to the one that my right eye sees. The explanation is fairly simple, but I don’t really want to comment on that. Instead, I want to share a quotation with you that this phenomenon brought to mind — a quotation that admirably expresses how I feel about science and life in general.
“The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.”
— Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow.
I think Dawkins hits the nail on the head with this passage and I would seriously recommend this particular volume to anyone out there who hasn’t already read it.
The Yesterday Tree.
The chapter outlines for the next novel are still progressing steadily. I have about ten chapters outlined in, for me, great detail. It is opening out in a slightly different way than I would have expected, but at heart it’s still the kind of novel I want it to be — psychologically intense, dark, Kafkaesque, character driven but with a pacey, thriller-style plot. I will be glad to get the outline out of the way, however. It’s a pretty labourious process at times — write a bit, check a few facts, write a bit more, research police murder procedure, write a bit more… you get the picture — but it will make the whole process of writing the novel far less stressful. I’ll be able to concentrate much more on the language, on creating the feel I want.
It’s all in the preparation — isn’t that what they say?
© 2008 Gary William Murning
I always like to have a strong sense of place when writing a novel. I wouldn’t consider myself the kind of writer who labours over detailed, lyrical description of landscape and surroundings — far from it. My primary concern is always what’s going on in my principle character’s head. Nonetheless, without the capacity to visualise in detail where he/she is I quite often find myself struggling with the other aspects of the novel. Environment is an extremely important part of understanding who my characters are, even if I share only a little of the detail with my readers.
Wherever possible, I like the places I use to be real towns, cities, villages etc — or to at least be based upon them. In the early stages of planning a novel I will quite often consciously look for new places I haven’t used before, places that will reflect my character in the right way and provide the necessary possibilities I will need. The Yesterday Tree (the new name for We Are Watching) was no exception. I knew early on I wanted the North York Moors to feature. In winter it is a stark and awe-inspiring place, the sky seemingly going on forever. I knew virtually from day one that I would set some major scenes out there. There would be a dead man. A suicide. Probably more — much, much more.
But where was my protagonist going to live? He wasn’t a city or town man, that much I already knew. So it had to be a village — or at least a market town.
Last Wednesday, I found the perfect place. Thornton-le-Dale.
Nothing bad could ever happen there, right?
We’ll see about that!
As is so often the way whilst outlining a novel, I today discovered that We Are Watching — the outline for which is now progressing very nicely — no longer wants to be We Are Watching. As the various threads started to unravel a phrase within the story began to stand out more.
The Yesterday Tree.
It somehow seems to more accurately represent the way the story is going. Life, the past and its continuance into the present and future — age-old wisdom. I think I like it.