Sunday 23 October 2011

What's in a Name?

My loyal followers (both of them!) will have noticed that this blog has undergone a change of name. The original one may have been offputtingly bad. My new title might not be any better, but I liked the alliteration, so have kept this theme going. Feel free to offer any opinions, good or bad...

Actually, titles are the bane of my life. I have a terrible time with them. But before we get into that, a quick update on the book, as promised. Well... it's actually been in a bit of a mire this week. Anyone who lives with children in Scotland will be familiar with October Week. It's roughly equivalent to half term for any non-Scots reading (I hale from Brighton, and still don't feel I've got to grips with all the ins and outs of the Scottish education system). Anyway, the point is my late-night writing shift (as detailed below) is hopelessly disturbed, because bedtime has gone out of the window. The kitchen table forms my office, and I need silence in my office, not two girls wandering in and out complaining that there's no cereal left so they can't have their eighth bowl of the day. For the same reason, the summer holidays equate to seven weeks of enforced drought. Don't get me wrong, I do love them, but they have no concept of the magnitude of the work I am creating. (Tongue in cheek here.) I'll either have to learn to write with distractions, or build myself a soundproofed shed.

So, back to titles. By the way, rest assured that this blog is not going to be all about moaning. I'm just getting it out of my system.

Titles do not come naturally to me. My first novel went untitled during the entire almost three years it took to write and redraft, with not even a glimmer or the smallest inkling of any idea of what it could be. When we tell someone an anecdote in everyday life, we're not worried about giving it a fancy title. Many writers say that the title suggests itself naturally either during writing or when you look back at it as a whole, but I've never had either experience. I have found it slightly easier with short stories, but even there I've never come up with a title I truly felt happy with. There's a couple of unpublished ones that still remain nameless.

This is unfortunate because the title is the very first thing agents and publishers will judge you on. For all we know, it could stop them reaching the first line. This may have happened with my book, which was rejected by 15 agents. I eventually came up with Unwanted Truths, which did reflect the story - inconvenient truths emerge which wreck the characters' lives - but couldn't help sounding hopelessly contrived, which of course it was. It turned into an unwanted book.

I decided to have a think about the techniques that others might have used. Alliteration clearly worked for Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility). Nabokov clearly thought his prepubescent heroine's invented name was good enough for Lolita and even devoted the opening line to describing how it rolls off the tongue. You can use wordplay (Double Fault by Lionel Shriver, which describes the relationship breakdown of a tennis-playing couple). The book I am currently reading, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, uses a single line describing the protagonist to make a strikingly unusual title. Maybe I should try out some of these techniques for my new book.

So, how are you with titles? Come naturally, or like pulling out fingernails? Somewhere in between? Let me know.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Home Alone

No, this isn't meant to be a film blog, and I wouldn't call the above film one of my all time favourites, but it seemed apposite as the title of my second post. I'm also around the same age as Macaulay Culkin, which is a strange thought. This week, I had the house to myself for the first time in what seemed a very long time, as my daughter (just turned three) started a bigger playgroup, where you are obliged to drop your progeny off in order to intermingle with their peers, without parents ruining their street cred.

Once the abandonment issues had ebbed - it did feel strange - I contemplated a good hour and a half of uninterrupted writing. I haven't had mornings to work for about two and a half years, but I feel it's my best time. Everything seems fresher, and I like having daylight and something to look at outside, even if more often than not it's rain at this time of year in Scotland. My recent shifts have been from 11pm, after everyone has gone to sleep, up until 12 or 1 or whenever I've achieved 500 words (I'll do double that in a good morning) and when you need to be up at 5.30am to get four kids ready for school, things can go downhill pretty quickly. Teeny's starting nursery five days a week from January, and it sounds like a blissful utopia. Not that I want rid of her, of course. But I'm definitely looking forward to a bit more sleep, hopefully with the added bonus of the pace picking up on the book. It feels like a chore at the minute, which is not the way it should be.

I'm up for a bit of debate on here, so I'd like to throw it open to anyone who's passing by. Do you have an ideal time to write? Do circumstances prevent you from working at that time, and if so, what is your alternative? And do you think this has an impact on your writing?

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Hello and welcome!

Hi, my name's Nick and I've set up this blog to detail my struggles as I write my second novel and help bring up four kids. I intend to track its progress all the way through to publication if things ever get to that stage! (My first book is on the back burner.) I've had a few short stories published, though, so am half confident that it's possible I can release a book. Well... maybe 40%.

If anyone wants to accompany me on this expedition you are more than welcome. Tea and crumpets?