I buy a newspaper on a Saturday. This is somewhat of an anachronism (the purchase of a paper, not Saturday), going back to a time when there was actually something on the TV that might be worth watching but no reliable TV guide (either provided by the TV itself or available via the internet). In those days, the cryptic crossword had a prize worth teasing the old brain cells for and, well, probably the summers were better, the water sweeter and you could have a three course meal, a crate of wine and a taxi home and still have change from a fiver.
Nowadays, the crossword is available on the day online for free, and even our 8 year-old TV has its own guide-thing at the press of a button, helpfully labelled “Guide”. I have always felt that it would be more useful if, on pushing it, the TV told you what the hell was happening, either with the programme showing, or maybe just life in general.
I digress. In last Saturday’s newspaper, in the Review section, there was an article where various writers and writing-teachers waxed lyrical with tips for would-be writers. They are the people in the title, trying to “Right” authors with their hints on how to be good at it.* I have to say that I am not a great fan of tips like this because IMHO what you need to do is write first and develop your writing muscle, then see about the other stuff. Once other people have read your work, then you can start the refinement of your writing style.
Of all the dozen tips, there was one that I did actually like – so I will share it with you, provided you promise to let my novel be ahead of yours in the bestseller list for the first couple of weeks.
It is an easy one – sort of – and comes from William Boyd, who is a novelist and screenwriter (it says here):
KNOW YOUR ENDING
Mr Boyd says that he sees lots of good ideas presented to him by budding authors who, when asked the question “How does it end?”, answer “No idea”. Or words to that effect.
In the case of my latest novel, I have been very, very slow at finishing it. In fact, I have known for some time how it will end, but that detail is still in my head, and not on the page, electronic or anachronistically paper. This tip from William Boyd has made me wonder whether that is part of the problem – the ending isn’t concrete, solid, has no physical existence.
Guess what I am not doing right now (because I am writing this)? The last few pages of “The Xylophone at the Gates of Dawn” are slowly coming to life on my other screen. I think the ending might just be the start…
* And in no way just a lame excuse for a pun.