Who’d have thought it? We have a road named after us. Most people know it as the Garden Route. It runs along Sandown Bay in South Africa’s Cape region. Here’s proof. Naturally, I’m fascinated by this. Naturally, I want to find out more. I’ve emailed a local school. Get this – the Micklefield School. Jeez, the synapses are firing now. Guess where I want to go?
We’ve got the Tramontane today. It blows over the top of the snow-capped Pyrenees and circles around rattling shutters and stabbing you between the eyes – a perfect afternoon for staying indoors and watching the start of the Six Nations.
I won’t beat myself up if I don’t do any writing today. That’s how it goes. Sometimes I write two or three thousand words; sometimes I struggle to get down five hundred.
It has to be done. The thing’s too long. I have to bring out the edit knife and chop.
My serial is set in the French village of Bugarach. On the night of twenty-first December 2012, Bugarach was at the centre of international media interest over the coming end of the world. This remote village in Languedoc is the location of the magic mountain. Its rock formations are upside down; the oldest rocks are at the peak rather than at the base. Legend has it that one day the rocks will part and aliens will arrive to save believers.
Where better to hold an end of the world party? Where better to set a story about struggling relationships and people who want to make changes in their lives?
But it’s too long. Pass me the light sabre.
She likes the idea. The Fiction Editor at the magazine is intrigued. I think I’m getting closer. We’re keeping in contact while I do the rewrites.
This is my third go at writing a longer piece for serialization. The first, by chance, was too similar to a story they were currently running with a similar main character. The second was considered too downbeat. I understood perfectly. It’s more of a story for Mick Alec Idlelife and if you haven’t met him yet, check out his page under ‘A writer in the making”.
So, fingers crossed for third time lucky.
He was an excellent guitarist. When he sang to his own accompaniment, the room hushed and listened. But, we couldn’t work together. He didn’t know what I was doing with my voice and I didn’t know what he was doing with his chords.
See, if we’d had a chance to prepare, things might have worked out better. So, after the first verse I asked to carry on ‘a cappella’ as they say in the music world. The term comes from Italian and means in the style of chapel singing without instrumental accompaniment.
We had a word afterwards and he told me I’d done the right thing.
So, this brings me to the subject of my previous post. You have to have the confidence to sing in your own voice, to write in your own voice. Some people will like it; some people won’t.
Do you receive Holly’s weekly tips? I do. Holly Lisle writes fantasy novels. I don’t, but what she has to say on all manner of writing issues is relevant to all genres. Find her at http://www.hollylisle.com
Here’s today’s gem from Holly: ‘It’s disastrous to use someone else’s style as your own.
Consider—the writer whose work you love is an original.
If you set out to use her style, you can AT BEST only
ever be a second-rate copy of her. Worse, you will work
twice as hard copying her style as you would developing
one of your own.
What you love about her style is the way her mind puts
the story on the page. But you don’t HAVE her mind.
You have yours, and what comes naturally to her and flows
from her hand as a part of her would sound false coming
If you managed to make yourself a good imitator and
managed to sell your work in her style, some of the
people who liked her work would certainly find you.
But many of them would consider you a pale imitation
(and they’d be right), and they would wander away.
Whereas, if you develop your own style, the people who
find you and love your work CANNOT find another voice
like yours. There IS no other voice like yours. Your
readers will stick to you because only you can give
them YOUR stories.
You’ll find your own voice as you write. It isn’t
something you have to struggle with; it isn’t something
you have to twist yourself into pretzels to “create.”
Your voice is you, talking naturally to your reader,
telling stories that matter to YOU. It takes time to
find your voice, and a lot of words written to get
past early awkwardness that comes from trying too hard,
but once you come home to who you are as a storyteller,
no one will ever mistake you for a cheap knockoff.
Be yourself. Pretending to be someone else will
leave you miserable, uncertain of the value of your
own work, certain that you only gained any success you
ever obtain because you copied some quirk of another
You would never be able to believe that the people
who loved your work loved YOUR work. You would
always believe it was the way you copied someone
else’s punctuation and grammar that they were
Only you can tell your stories. Be sure you tell them
in your own voice.
And my response – ‘thank you for this. It’s brilliant! I think it’s so important to find your own voice – like a singer whose style is instantly recognizable as soon as she opens her mouth. I’d go further. It’s in the timbre of the voice, to borrow a musical term.
Some people have operatic voices; they sing great arias, but get them to attempt something contemporary and it comes out all wrong and out of place. Others sing rock to raise the roof, or blues to make you cry and they’d sound just as misplaced trying to sing something from Puccini.
Tonight I’m singing a Robert Burns song at a Burns’ Night celebration. It’s a well-known song, but I’m doing my own thing with it. Isn’t that what we hear on X-Factor? You took this song and you made it your own?
I’m not looking to be a great singer. I just like singing. I love writing more. I know I have to have the same kind of confidence to do my own thing with it.’
Holly always signs off with ‘Write with joy’.
I do. So does Mick although he wouldn’t admit it.
Our electricity tariff in France is what we inherited when we bought the house. It’s called Tempo. You need a university degree to understand how it works. There are Red Days, White Days and Blue Days and within each price band there’s a cheaper night rate that kicks in at ten pm. A forecast box on the wall in our utility room tells us what to expect for the morrow. From November onwards, it’s a house rule to check the forecast.
White Days equate to standard charges. Blue Days are cheap rate all day long. They come in summer when you don’t want any heating and it’s too damned hot to cook anyway. Red Days, though. Oh, Red Days. There are twenty-two of them spread through the winter months. Red Days are when you switch off all the lights. Red Days are when you hope somebody invites you out to dinner. On Red Days, we bring in the camping gas stove and set it up on the hob. We don’t use the electric kettle or the dishwasher or the washing machine and tumble dryer, or the vacuum or the iron. We don’t have on the computer and the television. We eat stir-frys and anything else that cooks quickly in one pan. Red Days’ electricity costs ten times the cheap rate.
The upside of all this is
a) Red Days are a good excuse not to do any housework.
b) On summer Blue Days you can afford to put on the air-conditioning
c) By law, our supplier can’t give us a Red Day on Sundays or Bank Holidays.
d) It’s rather nice sitting by the log fire in a room lit by candles
The downside of all this is
a) I spend all day Sunday washing, drying and ironing
b) I’ve taken to wearing winceyette pyjamas and taking a hot water bottle to bed
c) You can’t read by candlelight
d) Dinners can be a bit boring
With this last in mind, an idea for a book comes to mind. Red Day Dinners. Now, how would I pitch that?
First of all, I’d have to ask friends to donate recipes. I’m no great shakes in the kitchen. My greatest culinary strength is the one handed down by my mother: never waste anything. Throw it all in a pan and fry it up. The results can be surprisingly tasty, even if they are an odd colour. If the colour turns out too obnoxious, you crack in a couple of eggs.
See, there’ll probably be an expert out there who knows how to use a steamer on the one gas ring of a camping stove to cook a whole three course meal. I think I might manage two: warmed up leftovers in the bottom and a steamed slab of chocolate cake in the top. Voilà. And there we have it. Celia’s Simple Red Day Supper. Perhaps I should rethink the title of that book!
But, I’ve neglected to mention what’s happening outside on Red Days. It’s cold. It’s very cold. It’s a dry kind of cold that feels like daggers in your eyes. The wind slices through your clothes as if it’s trying to rip them from your back. Huge cedars and sky-piercing cypresses rock and sway and the distant mountains have done some overnight magic. The peaks are covered in snow. In the crystal light of a Red Day, they seem closer than ever, majestic against that winter blue sky, rock faces glowing pink at sunset.
Birds gather each morning on the top of a neighbour’s television aerial. They sit in tight rows and speculate on the day before they fly off to eat. At four thirty every afternoon, there they are, back on the aerial again before dusk summons them to roost.
Only 9 more Red Days to go.
Celia has finally persuaded Mick to make an appearance. Mick Alec Idlelife says things Celia feels she can’t. She’s pleased he has his own page now . . . although he is hankering after the next Short Story of the Month slot.
We don’t often get snow here. This week we had plenty. It doesn’t last, though. As soon as the sky clears, the sun comes out and melts it all.
I don’t need to know how a car engine works, ergo, I don’t need to know how a computer works or, necessarily how to use Codex (see how I’m getting au fait with the language).
I’m content to click buttons and drag and drop and all that easy stuff. The more user friendly all this malarkey is, the more time I have to write, which is how I enjoy spending my time.
But, I have to say, I’m quite enjoying playing with WordPress so far.
No reason for the moody sunrise picture. It’s just here because I can. Easy-Peasy.