Saturday, 24 January 2015
Early spring cleaning by Mary Smith
You may be thinking it’s not even the right time to start on the spring cleaning but I assure you there is not a duster or tin of polish in sight. No, I’m spring cleaning draft work on various places on my computer and in notebooks of which there are several scattered around the place. I never seem to finish one notebook before I start writing in another. I always intend to but I misplace them or I buy new ones and start writing in them immediately. I have some which I try to keep for poems but if an idea for a story strikes when I have my poetry notebook by my side then, of course, I’m not going to risk the idea disappearing into the ether while I find the correct notebook.
On my computer, I have several chunks of NaNoWriMo novels – abandoned part way through November. One of those starts with a woman clearing out her mother’s loft, finding an old address book (her own, not her mother’s) and spots the phone number of a man with whom she had an affair many years ago. She decides to call him. The story jumps to her standing by the fountain in a shopping centre, waiting for him to turn up. He’s late and while she waits she thinks back to their relationship. It was shortly after this I gave up writing – he sounded so utterly obnoxious I couldn’t believe my heroine (or anyone else) would embark on a love affair with him. And, I had absolutely no idea where the story was supposed to be going. My finger hovered over the delete button for a moment – gone.
I have found beginnings of what might be short stories, the first few pages of novels written in a variety of styles from chick lit to a kind of fictionalised memoir. Started and abandoned – and I think now I know why. It is because none of these pieces are the start of anything I would feel comfortable writing. There is no trace of my voice in any them. Deleted! Well, not entirely. There’s this curious little piece:
“When her mother came into the room, Maggie held the photo towards her. ‘You’re just in time to tell me who this is.’ She watched, alarmed, as the colour drained from her mother’s face.
‘I didn’t know she’d kept it,’ she whispered.
‘Mum, what’s wrong? Who is this?’ She shook the photo at her mother who sank down onto the bed. She held her hands out for the photo frame.
‘Jawad. His name was Jawad. He was your gran’s,’ she paused for a second, continued, ‘your gran’s friend. A long time ago.’
Maggie took back the photo staring down at the handsome face. ‘Oh,’ she whispered, ‘walnut man.’”
I’m keeping this – it will go in a file labelled Possibilities, along with part of a short story about a man preparing to take a photo of a monkey when a small boy throws his sandal to chase it away and is rewarded with a torrent of abuse from the tourist. There is a line in it which says the boy had realised the monkey’s intentions – was he going to bite the man, grab his camera?
I have bits of monologues, some of which I’m deleting, some I might keep. In notebooks are draft poems by the score, not all complete, but many containing a nugget of something worth working on. I’m going to type them up and file them under ‘poems in progress.’
By the time my turn to post on our blog I should have done my spring clean and have some idea of exactly what writing projects I am going to focus on. Is everyone else much better organised than I am?