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As a (he coughs) writer I like to see the good use of words. A friend of mine showed me his tattoo the other day and I instantly recognised the words as lyrics from one of my favourite songs. I just wondered what are the best lyrics you've seen or heard. We might get some classic songs rearing their heads.
Oh and a bonus prize for anybody who guesses the song from his tattoo, without google cheating.
...paint your mind to the distant thunder, still it fills his head with wonder...
So join in with your favourite songs lyrics, lullabies, anything goes really.
For those of you who have already 'Kindleized' your babies. I thought you may want to have a read on David Gaughran's blog which gives a little more insight on how you could help things along with more exposure for your novel.
You bookmarked the name. Did it months ago. Almost forgot it, but not really. Research, you said. For later, you said. If I need it, you said. Then, one day, you did need it. Or so you thought.
Impatience and envy do funny things to your head. They twist like cats around your mind, rubbing your thoughts with their silky coats, purring that you deserve more. They make you think you're ready when, perhaps, you're not. Make you think you're one of the pack, a wolf, a hunter worth fearing. It is with these lies that you staple your heart to a data exchange, nothing more than a code of zeroes and ones that, somehow, cradle every dream, every secret thought, every secret desire.
And you let it fly.
Try not to worry, they say. Do something else, they say. And you, with your liar's tongue, smile and nod and promise, but within the secret confines of your head, you plot and scheme and pick out the outfit you're going to wear to the first screening of the Hollywood adaptation, rubbing shoulders with stars and drinking wine with supernovas.
Then, the inevitable happens. Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe you sit and wait until weeks, months, even years pass, waiting for a whisper of a hint that your voice might have been heard, and not just heard, but... liked? You dare not even breathe that most secret of desires, that most narcissistic of hopes - that you, in your ordinaryness, somehow matter.
The rejection is kind, not for me, market isn't right, I have to love it, lots of people submit, only a few spaces on this rocketship left. Tears well, your heart contracts and is thrown to shatter upon a floor piled knee-high with the ashes of former disappointments. But then a tiny, treacherous spark of relief kindles, rebuilding your heart, allowing it to beat again. You let out a long sigh. Because as much as you want it, as much as you chase that will-o-wisp down every rabbit hole you can uncover, there is a seduction in rejection. She dances before you, drawing your eyes from the no, towards other peaks on the horizon, towards the parts of your opus that you fretted over, the niggles, the what-if-I-changed-thats, allowing you to breathe and accept that maybe, just maybe, the universe had actually done you a favour and given you another chance to shine.
Don't see those times as failure. They are opportunities, ripe for the plucking. Keep going. Keep crafting. Keep improving. Those peaks are distant now, but the more we struggle on, the closer they inevitably get.
(Note: all random stuff is stuff wot is in my 'ead, and not meant to represent anyone else at all. It's the crazy wot has to get out once in a while otherwise I'd explode in a shower of guts and nonsense.)
‘Free Will, The Greatest Illusion?’ Thus spake the front cover of BBC Focus, Science and Technology, June 2015, along with the sub-heading ‘How science is discovering that you’re not really in control.’ Well, obviously I had no option but to read the article.
The gist of it may be familiar to many people, and goes like this. Within a laboratory setting, a time lag can be found between an event in the brain (measured by electrodes or suchlike) and the corresponding action in the outside world (pressing a button or some such). The gap can be anything from 300 milliseconds to 1.5 seconds or even, in one study, 7 seconds. Hence, it seems the brain knows what will happen before we do.
However, this interpretation depends on a particular model of human consciousness – that our everyday awareness (let’s call it surface consciousness) (or, if we’re being sarcastic, button-pressing consciousness) is all we have, and nothing else is going on at any other level.
Let’s examine this. An obvious place to look is creative work. Anyone who does much reading knows the difference between uninspired, everyday writing – and something that has oomph. The former is a typical product of surface consciousness (button-pressing consciousness) – but the latter, where does that come from?
Writers know what it’s like to get on a roll – or be ‘in the zone’, as sports people say – where everything flows so successfully that they read it over next day and think, “Wow, did I write that?” And the answer, of course, is yes. But it wasn’t the everyday self who did it, not the surface consciousness self. Otherwise anyone would be able to produce great writing – easy as turning on a tap.
So where does great writing come from? Rosamond Harding can offer some clues. In 1940 she published An Anatomy of Inspiration, including many quotations about great writers:
‘Goethe looked upon his genius as a mysterious power; his poems came to him of themselves and at times even against his will. “The songs made me,” he said, “not I them; the songs had me in their power”... George Eliot told J. W. Cross “that, in all that she considered her best writing, there was a ‘not herself’ which took possession of her, and that she felt her own personality to be merely the instrument through which this spirit, as it were, was acting.”... Dickens declared that when he sat down to his book “some beneficent power” showed it all to him. Thackeray says in The Round-about Papers “I have been surprised at the observations made by some of my characters. It seems as if an occult power was moving the pen. The personage does or says something, and I ask, how the dickens did he come to think of that?”’
We might, if we wish, imagine angelic beings whispering in writerly ears. However, it seems just as likely that humans have levels of consciousness, and when we feel inspired we are at a deeper level – so deep at times that it no longer feels like our ordinary self. Such a state can be close dreaming. Let’s return to Rosamond Harding:
‘There is a very interesting reference to [a] trance-like condition by W.B. Yeats in his Essay, Symbolism of Poetry, where he tells us that on one occasion when he was writing a highly symbolic and abstract poem, his pen fell to the ground. As he stooped to pick it up he began to remember some fantastic adventure and then another until he realised he was remembering his dreams from many nights. He then tried to recall what he had done that morning, but his waking life, he tells us, had perished from his mind; and it was only after a struggle that he came to remember it again. He says “had my pen not fallen on the ground and so made me turn from the images that I was weaving into verse, I would never have known that meditation had become a trance... So I think that we are lured to the threshold of sleep, and it may be far beyond it...”’
So here we have a type of deeper consciousness, one that is very different from surface consciousness, and we might speculate what riches it contains. Dreams obviously live there, along with those mysterious things, memories, but how about free will? Well, proof is hard to find, but when it comes to deep questions we probably draw on deep responses. Who to marry, where to live, and – in the cases of people like Goethe, Eliot, Dickens, Thackeray, Yeats – what to write, these are not matters to be decided by button-pressing consciousness. Otherwise we would not stick with the resulting decisions but would, like a jilting lover, desert our choices at the metaphorical altar.
How about middling states, however? Let us turn from the writer to the reader: for instance, you. Let’s say you are sitting on a sofa, reading a book, thoroughly absorbed, but at the same time you could do with a cup of tea and a slice of toast. Maybe a visit to the loo as well. Should any handy electrodes be attached to your brain, they might register a beep several seconds before you rub your hungry tummy. Ditto that loo-desiring wriggle on the seat: milliseconds if you’re desperate, quite a few seconds if not.
Does that mean you are unconscious of your tea’n’toast need or your competing loo urge? Of course not. But your main consciousness is on the book. Which bit of consciousness? Probably deeper consciousness if you’re well into it, rising to surface consciousness if you actually notice your wriggle or tummy stroke. But in between those two extremes there’s plenty going on.
You might have an image – or more likely, impression – of the kitchen. Or maybe images – or, more likely, impressions – of tea and toast. Then there’s the loo. Would you have an image – or impression – of the room itself? Or the relevant porcelain perhaps? All this would be going on in the background of the story you’re reading, like music in the background of a film. You know it’s there, but with a sort of peripheral vision.
Eventually, of course, you sigh and get up. Darn it, you really wanted to get to the end of that chapter. But when exactly was the moment of decision? Was it at the moment of rising? Almost certainly not. A few seconds before? Quite possibly. But essentially the decision has been brewing for several minutes. Good luck to any electrodes which try to track all that. (And by the way, you haven’t yet decided which room you’re heading to first, kitchen or loo.)
So now we have three levels of mind: surface consciousness, deeper consciousness, and – let’s call it – vague pondering. However, this is still a very crude model. Consider the brain waves discovered by EEGs. Beta waves, which generally correspond to surface consciousness, operate at 16-31 Hz (or cycles per second); alpha waves, associated with relaxed concentration, operate between 8-15 Hz; theta waves, of dream or possibly visionary states, at 4-7 Hz; and delta waves, of dreamless sleep (you’d need binaural technology to stay awake in these) at 0.1-3 Hz.
Obviously there will be variations within these. For instance, when writers are on a roll they are probably in an alpha wave state, but when Yeats found himself remembering dreams, he’d probably slipped over the border into theta waves. The same might go for those who – like Goethe, Eliot, Dickens and Thackeray – found something quasi-spiritual in their inspiration.
However, the trouble with all this is that it is subjective. And (a) you can’t measure subjective events (you can try linking them to beeps in the brain, but it’s a matter of faith how far they correspond) and (b) they are not repeatable (my thoughts might be very like your thoughts but that does not make them repetitions of each other). However, the scientific method works on objective measurement and repeatability. So we have a problem. How can we solve it?
Well, this article has focused on writers and readers, so let’s stay with the theme and suggest an excellent source of research into subjective states. Novels. Choose your book, of course, but many of them will carefully anatomise what’s going on in their protagonist’s mind. Not exactly scientific data, but would any of us read Cry The Beloved Country, say, or Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man with the conviction that these contain people whose actions are determined entirely by electrical and chemical reactions in the brain?
Well, whatever your answer, I bet it took you more than 300 milliseconds – or even 1.5 seconds – to bring it out to formulation. That’s how we do it. We ruminate. That’s the way our levels of consciousness work.
To see an accompanying image (Dickens' Dream' painted 1875 by Robert William Buss, portraying Dickens at his desk at Gads Hill Place, surrounded by many of his characters) click here: bit.ly/1cfNNkt
Haven't done this for a while, but am feeling in need of something a bit different. Not that the WIP is losing its attraction at all...
So - challenge me, over on the Scribbles!
PS. Some folk have had problems leaving comments, so you can always leave them here if you are and I'll still pass them on to family Squidge for a final choice.
The trains are out of operation and I have been stuck in suburbia over the bank holiday with grim weather. Yesterday I finished reading a detective story in which the main protagonist is a chronic liar. Her story is in the first person narrative, and she tries to convince the reader that she is innocent of a murder - a murder that circumstantional evidence suggests she committed. As far as I am concerned she is gulity of the murder whatever outcome the author proposes. I should demand my money back, but I borrowed the book from a public library.
This morning I also finshed a recent life of King John. Internet chatter had it that he will follow Wolf Hall( Thomas Cromwell) and Richard 111, in that he will be re-assed and enter the company of the great and the good. I think this is most unlikely as he lost a war which people got fed up paying for, and a law emerged which forbade the king talking money for wars without their express pemission.
A touring production of Shakespeare's King John is going round the country and the last performances will be in london. I am reading the play before going to see it, But, if Shakespeare cannot make a villain/hero out of King John?
I heard on yesterday's news that England came close to being last in the Eurovision Song Contest. I had no idea the Eurovision Contest had taken place. Perhaps I should follow the news more than I do, but this happens if you do not watch TV
In july of 2014 I 'finished' The Grangemouth Conspiracy at a massive 165,000 words. I was proud of my achievement at first and started sending the usual submission package to five agents a week, regular as clockwork. Back then I had no idea 'point of view' or 'psychic depth' even existed. My writing was done very much by intuition. I read over my passages into a microphone and played them back correcting what didn't 'sound' right to me. I knew that there must be 'scientific' methods for writers to get more accuracy into their work so I started pokeing around on the internet and found a few sites offering screenwriting courses at phenomenal prices. I stumbled across crowdfunding sites and self publishing sites – all quite new and exciting to me. I submitted my bulky ms to several of these, all rejected out of hand. In September I discovered Lulu.com and decided to make a go of self publishing. I formated my ms, uploaded cover art wrote some silly autobiographical blurb that made no sense because I'm not a writer, I'm a musician. And plugged my book on their shameless self promption page. All of this seemed quite repulsive to me and rather arrogant but I was the newbie, and the tools all seemed geared to blowing your own trumpet (I don't play the trumpet). Now, nine months later I feel a certain guilt about my first steps into the world of writing. A sense that I 'duped' people into buying abook that I know now wasn't ready. The third rewrite of the G.C. finds itself 40,000 words lighter, much tighter in terms of POV and PD. Extraneous details and side stories and three chapters in their entirety ripped out.
I know that I was sucked in by the glittering posibility of getting my baby out into the world, and that many others, like me, fall everyday into the trap of assuming that the problem lays with the agents and publishers and not in their own writing. Iwas lucky enough to get one rejection letter (form Eve White) suggesting asking for help at an online site called the Writer's Workshop, and now after less than three months I'm in correspondence with an real agent. I now have to go around all the Amazon Nobu (whatever all these sites are called) and remove all traces of the self published book as if it was a disgrace to ever have succumbed to the temptation of unregulated publication. It's often said that S.P. is for losers or a sign of failure. It is not. In my opinion, it is a sign that a secondary option is being presented as a primary option. Imagine being given the choice on entering a hospital of operating on yourself or having to wait for a surgeon. They just don't do it becuase you'd most likely die. Self publishing won't kill you, of course, but if you do some first aid and wait for the surgeon, then your book will have a better chance to live.
I saw S.P. as a kind of improvised crowd funding, selling my uneditted, unvetted bilge to friends and family and the ocassional unknown punter. If and when I get into print in the conventional manner, I have sworn to send them all dedicated copies staight away.
This will only make sense to those of you who have read Ned's comments on my post in writing techniques about using free indirect thought. But it's inclusion there might have been an intrusion.
‘Prince Fuck!’ Ned made a low and exaggerated bow.
Arrogant little toad. Prince Faulk was sure he noticed a sneer beneath the wide brim of Ned’s red velvet hat. A peacock feather dangled insolently from the brim. How appropriate.
‘It’s Faulk, as well you know it.’
Ned lifted his head from where it was still poised only a few inches from the Prince’s shoes. Faulk though he might be admiring himself in the highly polished patina of the leather.
‘Faulk as in walk.’ The prince forced a tight smile in the direction of his wily guest.
Ned straightened up and scratched at his codpiece. One or two ladies tittered. ‘Would that be a Chinese wok or a British one?’
The Prince glared at him his bottom lip trembling and hissed, ‘Sorry?’
‘I had dinner with the Mings last month when I was in Beijing...It’s a kind of…’
The prince’s knuckles were white and he was gripping the carved ebony lion heads on the arm rests of his chair as if he were about to tear them off. Ned had always coveted them. Perhaps if the prince tore them off Ned might find a way of having a tradesman attach them to one of the chairs in his parlour. ‘Never mind your majesty.’ Bloody Hanoverians.
I keep getting asked to share my publishing experiences so it's time for another update. After talking last year about how becoming published isn’t the greatest aspect of being a writer, I’m having another shot at the big time. Over the weekend I’m going to submit one of my ‘women’s fiction’ novels, The Lost Corner, to five agents (incidentally, I’m using Agent Hunter for the first time and would strongly recommend it). I know, I know. The trouble is, there’s a niggling voice inside me that won’t be silenced, the voice that tells me I should shoot for the moon. I wish I could silence the voice – I suspect I’d be a lot happier if I could – but it’s not so easy.
All in all, my experience with Future Perfect and Elsewhen Press has been wonderful. The great thing about a small company is the family atmosphere it creates – I’ve got to know quite a few of my fellow writers. I also have a reasonable amount of control, for example they consult me on cover design. I hated the first version and they changed it. They’ve also put me under no pressure to finish the trilogy (although they’re written and part 2 will be out in September). The downside is the poor sales. Perhaps I’m being greedy – almost 200 people have read Future Perfect. If you’d told me that two years ago, I’d be delighted. But sales are dropping off now, and that seems a shame. I repeatedly send the book out to bloggers but many don’t reply. Two weeks ago, a blogger gave me a cracking review. She’s huge on social media and there were retweets of the review all over the place. The result? One sale.
The other thing that occurs to me is the role that luck plays. Last year, I tried to read ‘The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared,’ a massive bestseller. I didn’t get past the first two chapters. I’m told it gets better but God, the opening was dull. Recently, another writer friend recommended ‘Yesterday Road’ by Kevin Brennan to me. The theme is similar – the adventures of an elderly man – but it was infinitely better written, with a warmth and magic I won’t forget. And yet this book is self-published and languishes in the lower reaches of the Amazon sales rankings. But then, who’s lucky? The hundred year old man’ has 295 one star reviews. I’d hate that although I guess the 5,625 five star ones compensate J
So it’s back to the heartache of the slushpile. One day I’ll be brave enough to say, ‘In future, I’m just going to write for me.’ But I’m not there yet. How about you?
The Times used to contain little snippets of world news. Some of which were very strange. Perhaps it still does. Here is one such post from a Daily Bangkok newspaper:
An error occurred in the story yesterday entitled “Chicken rice made good”. The quote in the sixth paragraph should read: “He physically and mentally abused my mum, my sister, me, and our dog every day,” not the other way round as published. We regret the error.