Divine Inspiration

I’ve got about fifty pages of yellow legal paper that have been sat on my bedside table, all of them relating to Harry Hicks’ backstory. It’s been in my head since I wrote it down three or four years ago, but it’s been ages since I’ve actually read it.

I’m looking forward to reading it, and I was just sorting through them getting the pages into order before I started to type it all up… when I found a page in amongst it all that didn’t quite belong. It’s just five simple pieces of speech, no narrative just dialogue, and it goes a little like this:

“I can’t do this anymore, Mary. I’m not who you think I am.”

“Who do I think you are?”

“Joe. The boy you grew up with. The boy who made love to you in that tree house. The man you married. I’m not him. I can’t be any of those things any more.”

“What do you mean? What happened?”

“That war happened! Those guns, the blast. All that blood. I watched my best friend die. He got a gunshot wound in the leg. He should have survived, but he bled out, died right there on the ground in front of me. All I could think was thank God it wasn’t me. Thank God. I felt so lucky. He was the lucky one. He’s already dead… we’re all still dying.”

I’d love to know what I was thinking of when I wrote this down… and why I never revisited it. I have no recollection of ever jotting those words down, but it’s definitely my messy scrawl.

I’m so intrigued by it, there’s so much history in there, so much story waiting to be tapped. I’m also a little unimpressed with my lack of imagination when it came to naming the characters – Mary and Joe? Maybe this is all that remains of a lost biblical epic.

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Dawn French – 30 Million Minutes

It’s been approximately a thousand minutes since I sat down in my chair in the Hexagon theatre in Reading and photo bombed the selfie of the woman in front of me.

I was there to watch Dawn French perform her one woman show ’30 Million Minutes’ – the premise of which is that that is roughly the amount of minutes that French has been alive.

It is an autobiographical show, one in which Dawn tries to look back on her life and make sense of it. She says at the very beginning that she feels like she’s in a transition phase between one part of her life to another, and that this show is about stopping, taking a pause and trying to make sense of everything.

To that effect, it’s important to note that is not stand-up. It’s not gag after gag. It’s Dawn French telling the audience about all the things that have made her who she is.

She talks about her childhood, her mum, her dad, her brother and her grandparents. She tells a few anecdotes – including one about the Queen Mother – none of which will be new news to anyone who has read her 2007 autobiography Dear Fatty, but it’s great to hear them told by her, and makes it that little bit better.

French talks candidly about her father’s depression and subsequent suicide, her battles – not with weight loss – but with those weight loss headlines that dogged her for a while some years ago and her fierce protectiveness of her adoptive daughter Billie. She mentions her divorce from Lenny Henry after thirty years and some of the racism that they encountered as a mixed race couple, some of which is quite shocking.

But it’s still Dawn French telling these stories, she’s a funny woman. Her style of delivery is naturally funny, and while there are still tears rolling down your face after hearing about her father, you’re almost on the floor with laughter as she starts telling you about her mother’s growler.

It’s a brilliant show, and you can’t help but feel you’ve gotten to know Dawn a little bit better than you might have done before. The show’s warmth and candid nature makes you feel like you’ve spent the evening with a friend – and it spilt over for us.

We ended the evening sat in a bar with the two women – two strangers – who’s selfie we photo bombed earlier in the evening, and that is in no small part due to the way that Dawn made us feel. Friendly, open, and a little bit silly.

30 Million Minutes is on tour now with dates currently running until December – I highly recommend getting to see if you can.

You Never Forget Your First Draft

Last week I grandly proclaimed that I was aiming to have my novel finished by the end of the year. Now, eight days later – about 5% of the way through the remainder of the year – how am I doing?

It’s not going very well. In fact, it’s not going at all.

That’s not to say I’ve done no writing, just done nothing on the novel. I’ve started clearing through my bedroom, and started on the big pile of papers on my bedside table.

I’ve got a load of pads and notebooks, which I’ve used over the years to start bits and pieces, which I’ve never finished. I’ve always refused to throw them away because you never know when you might want to pick them up again.

I started digitising them this week, by typing them up on my laptop so that I can get rid of some of the clutter.

Lordy, there’s some nonsense there, though. The grammar’s all over the place, the story is non-existent, and the handwriting’s not too great either. However, there are some good bits (I’m particularly proud of a Meatloaf joke that I put into one piece) and if there’s only one good bit then it’s been worth doing this exercise.

I’m still making my way through the papers, but some of them include some of the material that I wrote three years ago for the sequel to Memories of a Murder. The plot has changed since then, but some of the elements are still there, so much of that is probably salvageable.

So, I did slightly under represent myself when I’d written 0% – assuming I can find room for that Meatloaf joke, I’m 0.03% done.

The Best That I Can Be

I’ve failed a bit over the last few weeks at writing updates for this blog. I was given a promotion in May, which led to increased responsibility at work. I hesitated for a bit before I accepted the promotion – over various different aspects – but one of the things I was considering was my writing.

I knew that taking the role would lead to more work for me, and that it would invariably lead to working longer hours, maybe even overtime at the weekend. In short, it would cut into my writing time.

I didn’t have to accept the promotion, I could have stayed doing what I was doing. So what pushed me into accepting? It wasn’t money. It wasn’t even the particulars of the new responsibilities, which at the time left me a little underwhelmed. What pushed me to accept was my drive to be the best that I can be.

I’m a sucker for computer games where you climb levels, whether that’s level after agonising level in Candy Crush, or gaining experience points in order to grow the strength of my Pokemon.

I don’t really measure myself against other people, I measure myself against me, and in everything I do, I try to be better than I have been previously.

I also fooled myself into thinking that I would always find the time to right. To be honest, I’ve not allowed that to happen.

But that doesn’t mean I did nothing. During a week in Brighton, followed by a week in Scotland – both for work – I managed to pin down the main plot of the second book. It’s three pages of about eighteen paragraphs that detail the main plot points. It likely won’t stay like that, but I now have the skeleton of where I want to go with it.

It took me eight years to write Memories of a Murder. This is another chance for me to better than I have been previously. Today is July 12th 2014, the day that I will officially begin to write my second novel.

I’m setting myself a target of the end of the year to be finished. I’m allowing myself to not reach that target, but as long as I’m finished by July 11th 2022, then I’ll be happy, because I did better than I did before.

I just need to not let work distract me too much. Wish me luck.