Sally Cronin has once more given my recent work on Far East POWs and my other work the kind of polish I dream about, but never quite achieve. My thanks to her and all her visitors.
Well I wasted (?) enjoyed (?) an hour of baffling fun. I took groups of paragraphs from different parts of my recent novel Border Line and apparently I write like:
H P Lovecraft – supernatural, extra terrestrial Arthur Clarke – science fiction Margaret Atwood – ?! James Joyce – double?! Arthur Clarke – perhaps this algorithm is on a loop
I put in a few paragraphs from my second novel, Unseen Unsung and I write like:
Anne Rice – vampire, Gothic fiction, Christian Literature, erotica H.G. Wells – science fiction Kurt Vonnegut – satire, gallows humour and science fiction again
And my first novel, A Small Rain and I write like:
H.P. Lovecraft – supernatural, extra terrestrial P.G. Woodhouse – out of left field
My unpublished non-fiction manuscript, Writing to a Ghost: Letters to the River Kwai 1941 to 1945 and I write like:
Arthur C Clarke – …what?
A short, short story, Barbed Wire, that I wrote in December on a course attached to the Reality Exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia. The story related to the painting by John Keane, The Inconveniences of History II and I write like:
Let that be a lesson to me; narcissism just leads to confusion. Or possibly the statistical analysis tool needs some adjustment. I have read none of the works of these writers apart from Margaret Atwood and P.G. Woodhouse, but I am reasonably certain that neither my style, nor, for sure, my content, has any resemblance to theirs.
My 500 word story is on this page.
I did finally stop pfaffing about and started writing today.
The pendulum has taken another couple of swings over the weekend. I arrived in Great Malvern (UK) on Saturday and discovered that the book group there were expecting to discuss with me my first book (A Small Rain, 2002, out of print) and not the 2008 Unseen Unsung, which I had prepared. I borrowed my hosts’ tattered copy of A Small Rain for a frantic revision before setting off for the meeting.
We were made very welcome in a member’s home, fortified with a drink and the fourteen of us spread out in her lovely sitting room. Under admirable chairmanship, each member talked about their reactions to A Small Rain and Unseen Unsung, which many had also read. I was able to give explanations and answer individual questions as we went along. After a break for sustaining and delicious nibbles, there was a more open-ended question and answer session about writing and publishing.
For me, to sit among a group of perceptive, enquiring people who have read my two published books and to talk about what works (and what doesn’t) was both a luxury and an immensely helpful experience. I was encouraged to find that they positively relished the complexity of the plots and the variety of subject matter and wanted more stories like this. Several also made a plea (as most book groups do) for a character list because, like many people, they read before sleeping and want to pick up again quickly.
The male protagonist of my first novel came in for some justified criticism for his saintly demeanour and his grating use of endearments. Lesson learnt! On the other hand the child coping with upheavals in his life met universal approval. It gave me great lift that a reader who had never taken to poetry found the selections I used wholly accessible. The writing in my second novel was seen as better paced – a page-turner. They warmed to the main character, a rather spoilt young man, as he lived through the events in the story. Even my dark portrayal of a mother had come off.
I realised with gratitude as I listened and talked, that these intelligent, curious, caring men and women are my readers. This has left me with a glow that will carry my writing forward, and with encouragement such as this, I will get Border Line published knowing that I will have (at least) fourteen readers.