Saturday, 30 April 2011
Weekend writer – Michelle Lovric
How many writers have weekends? Or an off-switch, for that matter?
I have spent many weekends without writing a word of fiction. But if that happens, then I try to make sure that I am living it. (See my other blogs).
I’m in the lucky position of having deadlines, but in general who ever dares to stop writing?
You can’t just leave your characters alone for the weekend, any more than you can leave your dog in the car on a hot day. It’s just not responsible. It’s not kind. And frankly, it’s not really possible.
You’ll take your characters shopping with you, noticing that a certain green scarf is just the colour of the eyes of your latest character. In the stationers, you suddenly realize it’s time you decide exactly what kind of pencil-case pedantic Renzo would take to school, or the exact pink of the lining of the coffin in which Rosibund sleeps, in The Mourning Emporium.
The most banal day is full of snafflable incidents. Whatever good or bad befalls the writer is easily recycled into her characters’ lives.
This being the case, the writer’s most vital organ is the one of discrimination. With so much possible input, the skill of the author lies in weeding out the unwonderful.
A clever journalist friend of mine once offered advice on my chronic affliction of over-writing (always closely followed by painful, drastic cutting). She said, ‘Think of each piece of writing as a sculpture. The sculptor chooses his piece of stone to suit the figure he will create. He doesn’t buy a ten-metre-tall piece of stone for a one-metre-high sculpture. He wisely chooses a piece 1.2 metres tall. This means less work and less waste. Try to think of each story the same way.’
And so I would, if it wasn’t for the weekends. Those weekends spent stealthily gathering odds and ends of seemingly vital material. Those Saturday afternoons watching black-and-white movies in which the heroine turns her head just so, and you know you need that gesture for your next book. The Sunday morning egg yolk that spills out of its fretwork of white – just like one consumed by your hero at dawn on the day of the exam that will change his life. Or the gondolier who admits that, if tourists ask who lived in a certain palazzo, he always tells them that Casanova lived on the first floor, and Marco Polo on the second floor and Lord Byron on the third floor. This charming and fluent liar also urgently needs a guest-appearance in your book. As does the ‘preen gland’ of the flamingo, just written up by scientists. And …
So Monday morning finds the writer facing a ten-metre monolith of material, when all she wanted was a nice shiny little pebble she could roll neatly into her text.
Does anyone know where the off-switch is, for next Friday night?
Michelle Lovric’s website
See the video trailer for The Undrowned Child and The Mourning Emporium, on YouTube