How Not To Write

David has sent over another brief but insightful piece. He discusses a few minor plot points from the later parts of the series, so if you haven’t read though the original sequence, you might want to avoid some spoilers and skip this one. Thanks to David for sending!



How Not To Write
Observations from the front

It’s Friday morning – the fifth Friday morning we’ve had since the builders “moved in” with us, to refurbish our basement and make our lives hell. Oh, and it’s not that they’re not nice people or that they don’t work very hard, with a good end result, but…

As anyone who’s lived through this knows, it’s hard to do anything while you’ve got builders in. And it’s not just the noise, the dust, the accumulation of stuff that you’ve had to move so they can get at things, it’s also a state of mind, a kind of “well, I’ll deal with that once the builders are finished” mentality that stops you functioning as a writer.

Now, knowing this from previous encounters, I’ve tried to keep ahead of things by dealing with all kind of outstanding matters – so that when everything’s finished and the builders have moved out, I can settle down to some quality writing time. After all, I’ve got five books that I’ve got to write (that is, that I have contracts for) in the next three years, so I’d best get on with them, no?

Well, yes, and the one thing that doesn’t stop while all of this chaotic activity is going on, is the functioning of my mind, more particularly of my imagination. Without being encouraged to, my imagination keeps busy, keeps plugging away when all the rest of my brain activity has ground to a halt. Right now it’s working on a female Chinese character – I haven’t a name for her yet – who is part of a small team who surround Kim Ward and follow him everywhere, and jot down all of his valuable little insights and follow up on them – because Kim’s constant musings, his theoretical cast-offs, are umpteen times more important than the most profound thought of any other man (or woman). And my Chinese girl? Well, as I see her so far, she’s a bit of a genius in her own right, with her own area of expertise and her own idiosyncratic way of looking at things. And I know that I want to give her a family, and show how she relates to the other members of this little team that surrounds Kim, and… well, I know that I can’t push things, that I have to let my imagination come to its own conclusions and insights about her. Because only by leaving alone and not pushing will she develop as something special.

On another tack, and completely separate, even if it shares skull-space with the above, is Eridani, and the very last book of the sequence, The Marriage Of The Living Dark. The life forms and eco-system of Eridani are far advanced now, imaginatively. There’s a process at work there – between the newcomers from Earth and the old flora and fauna from Eridani itself, that I can see very clearly. I even have a name for it,… incremental assimilation. Yeah, I made that up myself. But, like my Chinese girl, I’m leaving it alone. Not even making notes on it – which is what I’d usually do – because I want my back brain to come up with this without interference from my super-ego. Because what I did wrong first time out – and the reason why so many fans don’t like MARRIAGE in its original form – is that I tried to control it far too much and keep it neat, rather than allow it to follow its natural shape.

The last three nights, Sue, Georgia and I have started re-watching  GAME OF THRONES, series one. It’s quite excellent, apart from one or two small added scene (which seem to be there only to provide mild sexual titillation) It’s such a bleak yet real vision, and just goes to show that ‘bleak’ has a large potential audience, and that the oft-received editorial comment that “it’s too bleak” is really a load of crap. But Martin’s work is truly magnificent , even if, structurally, he slightly lost his way in the last released book. I really care for his characters, and it’s very hard to think of any other major work (fantasy or otherwise) that has such a high standard when it comes to characterisation.

We’ll be starting the second series tonight, like a lot of fans of the show, I imagine, aiming to remind us of just how magnificent the whole thing is, before taking the further journey of series three. Oh, and this time round I appreciated the subtleties of the story far more. Martin really does the job of seeding future plotlines quite perfectly. There’s a lot of what I’d call foreshadowing, and, as a writer who likes the epic, I can tell you how difficult that is to get right.

Oh and next week I’ll be busy sanding. We have a parquet floor (look it up) which hasn’t been sanded and sealed for a good 16 years. Well, that’s what I’ll be doing almost all of next week, with a total floor space of 75 feet by 16 to do. It has to be sealed with a special sealant, then gently sanded, hoovered, sealed again, sanded again, hoovered, and then one last coat of sealant. Fun? Yeah, well it is, actually. I work with a notebook at my side, busily not writing so much as letting my mind go here there and everywhere. I’m good at sanding. Very good. I’ve been writing a Chung Kuo story about it, and, if all goes well, I’ll sit down and finish it the weekend after next… and maybe post it here.

Yes, and once that’s done, the house will be finished for the first time since we bought it. And maybe we can relax for a year or two. And get on with some real writing, and none of this not-writing business. Though, seriously, I like “not-writing”. Like the way the brain goes into free-fall when you let it.

So that’s it for today, apart to say that I’m hoping to see a contract for the time travel trilogy next week. We’ve now agreed on the fine detail so… I may even crack open a bottle of champagne when it comes through. Yes, and I’ll blog a page or two about it. Give you some background.

Tsai Chien!

David Wingrove         Friday 22nd March 2013

Halfway Done

Another short piece from David. No breaking news here, but definitely worth the read. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few relevant links. Thanks, as always, to David for sharing.


Halfway done

I’m sitting here, just across from Sue, listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash (Suite Judy Blue Eyes) on the headphones and feeling in a damn sight better mood than I’ve been in for several weeks. I guess partly that’s to do with the fact that our builders are halfway through their schedule of works and we’re on the downhill slope. And so, as ever when I’m in a good mood, I dig out my i-pod and just indulge.

Another reason for celebrating is that all the contractual stuff should be sorted by tomorrow and I can get working again – by which I mean writing. Today I was working – breaking up the ‘island’ surface from the old kitchen, which was made up of £500 worth of oak blocks glued together. I’ve bagged them up, and got rid of the rest of it. It took me three hours – a lot less than I thought it would. Counter-entropic, I always think of it as. Striking back against the universe in the name of Order.

As “Wooden Ships” (the Woodstock version) plays in my head, let me tell you about an encounter I had – with two guys who work with my brother Ian, before the recent Kraftwerk concerts in London – at the Tate Modern.  Now, I’m fifty eight, and my brother’s seven years younger, so our music comes from a very different era. How different we discovered while having a beer or two with these guys, who were in their twenties. Both were interested in experimental music. One of them sung in a medieval music choir that was practising Thomas Tallis’s Spem In Alium, perhaps the most complex choral piece there is, but when Ian and I started talking about the music of our time, there was a complete blank, almost as if – in true CHUNG KUO fashion – it had all been erased from history. We name-checked a dozen, two dozen bands and musicians, and… nothing. Like it had never existed. Van Der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, Egg, Amon Duul II, Magma… all of it gone without trace. That whole realm we call Progressive rock. Forgotten. Unplayed and therefore non-existent. And why? Because it’s hard to keep a handle over such creative stuff.  Much easier, then, to create a Justin Beiber (is that how you spell the little toe-rag’s name?) or a boy band or… any old shit that sells a million or more copies to the kindles consumers out there.

But… what it gave me was an idea, for a new and very different kind of novel, that uses some of the strengths of our time and its new technologies. A book that referred the reader, at every chapter break, to the piece of music they ought – at this stage in the tale – to be listening to. Mood music. Weird esoteric shit that opens minds and sends shivers up your spine. Like the piece I’m playing now – Amon Duul’s long  {30 minute)improvisation “Yeti” from 1969. All pounding drums and organ chords and fuzzed electric guitars and choir voices and… well, why don’t you go away and look it up on YouTube. I’ve just checked. It’s there.

Yes, and what was also mind-blowing during this encounter, was sitting there, overlooking the Thames and St Paul’s on the far side of the river, and watching my Brother, who is far more technologically with-it than me, call up item after item on his i-phone and tinnily playing them to his bemused friends. Sounds from an era so totally different from this we now inhabit that it’s hard to think how we got from there to here.

My theory is that we’ve been thoroughly manipulated by the big multi-nationals. That we’ve surrendered our creative souls to them, sold off our culture and let them give us back a worthless substitute – a placebo culture… a world of chalk tablets and drugs that numb us to the point where we actually believe that most of the shit they’re feeding us is truly inspired. Okay. At which point in our new novel form we play “Coma White” by Marilyn Manson

“A pill to make you numb, a pill to make you dumb, a pill to
make you anybody else, but all the drugs in this world won’t
save her from herself.”

Go play it now. Then play Nine Inch Nails “Fragile”

“She shines in a world of ugliness,
She matters when everything was meaningless.
Fragile, she doesn’t see her beauty…”

then go play “Aenema” by Tool

“Some say the end is near,
some say we’ll see Armageddon soon,
Certainly hope we will.
Sure could use a vacation from this
Bullshit, free range circus sideshow
… What creature in this hopeless fucking hole we call LA,
The only way to visit is to flush it all away.
Any fucking time, any fucking day,
Learn to swim, see you’ve done it, Arizona Bay.”

Okay. It kind of argues against my thesis. There is good shit about. Brilliant shit, if the truth be told. Written by genuinely creative people. BUT… we’re still being manipulated. Any fucking time. Any fucking day. Learn to swim…
So. Halfway done. And listening to the glorious Maynard James Keenan. And contemplating another evening on an uncomfortable sofa, which has been my ‘home’ these past few weeks.  Knowing that the way forward always involves two steps backward. That progress – in all things – is never smooth.

But more tomorrow. For now, goodnight.

David Wingrove     21.07 on this Sixth day of March 2013.