Saturday, 16 June 2012

Word Search

"He yanked the steel knobs of the tap and frantically scrubbed his blood-stained hands under the gush of cold water."

This is the first line of my novel. This is the big one, the opener, the selling point, the seductive temptress just waiting to lure an excitable and curious potential reader with a bit of cash in their pocket towards the till with a copy of my beautiful book lodged firmly in their hand. This line is the first glimpse of my pride and joy that said potential reader will see while flicking through the paperback section in their local bookshop (maybe even the bestseller section, imagine that?! No - stop daydreaming Sinead!) 

This line, in all it's glory, has taken three and a half years to write and yes folks, I'm STILL not happy with it! Don't panic either - I have written four chapters and the prologue of my book, not just this one line. I'm not a complete hopeless case!

I'd guess that I have re-written this line about 20 times and I'll probably have changed it again before the night is out. Every time I look at it I see something I could change, be it a grammar alteration or even an insertion of dialogue. It's quite annoying because I basically can't open up my novel without seeing that first line and sitting there for five minutes wondering how I should change it. And even when I leave it and continue writing the rest of the book, my mind always wanders back to that first line with a niggling feeling that reminds me that if my first line sucks, then no one will stick around and wait for me to prove how amazingly brilliant and creative the rest of the story is (Because my story is amazingly brilliant and creative, I promise. You'll stay around to find that out, won't you??).

The funny thing is that I don't ever see the need to change many other lines in the book. Normally when I'm on a roll with the writing I'll just write reams of stuff -  straight from the murky depths of my brain to the page without much editing in between. I hate editing paragraphs and chapters that I've already written so I usually tend to avoid it! But for some reason that elusive first line refuses to give me peace and like an addict, I eventually succumb to the cravings and get my fix...

My problem therefore is clearly a problem that I never thought I would have: I'm a perfectionist. Well, I'm a perfectionist when it comes to the first line of my book. Not so much after that. In fact, I'm not much of a perfectionist in any other area of my life. I've never been competitive: I never got the best exam results in class (my results were good - just not top of the class!). The boyfriend and I moved in together last year and it has taken us 18 months to get the front of the house completed. Because neither of us are perfectionists. We're both "Meh" people who graduated with honours from the school of "If it ain't broke don't fix it". Well maybe not honours, but I'm pretty sure we passed anyway...

Anyway, the point is that I don't understand why this one line constantly torments and bothers me. Every time I see that first line, it's almost like it's taunting - ridiculing me! Burning a hole in the screen of my lovely (new!) netbook! Sometimes it even puts me off writing, because I'll open up Microsoft Word, open up my novel document and spend so long staring furiously at that first line that I end up convinced that no one in the world will want to read the rest of my book after reading a first line like that. My God, I'm a perfectionist and neurotic. I'm finding a lot of things out about myself through this blog!

And then I wondered (I'm feeling very Carrie Bradsdhaw-esque write now, asking rhetorical questions aloud at my screen, as I tap away at the keyboard, mug of tea in my free hand!) if I will ever be happy with this line. Have I given it too much importance - maybe more than it's worth? The reality is that I cannot see myself ever having a "Eureka" moment with my first line (as I did with David in my last post!) and this unsettles me greatly. But should I be spending so much time on this line or should I just cut my losses, accept the line and the possibility that some day I'll be happy with it, move on with the rest of the book and pray that any potential agents/editors don't spend as long studying it as I have?

Is any writer ever really 100% happy with their finished (or unfinished) manuscript? Maybe the first line for me is similar to a sort of Achilles Tendon problem - it seems to be a weakness for me and maybe it'll never be amazing but if I can compensate with other areas, then on a whole it's not so bad. Maybe it's just about accepting the uncertain and imperfect nature of writing, taking a leap of faith and trusting myself (and my first line!).

On that note, I think I'm going to make more tea, take a deep breath, open up my novel on the netbook and start typing. And I will try my absolute hardest not to stare too much at that first line - but I can't make any promises!!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Face Off

I know my main character better than I know anyone else. Better than I know myself. I shouldn't really sound so self satisfied about that, I mean he is a figment of my imagination, of course i should know everything about him; I made him!

David is 6 foot tall, with dark brown hair, slim build. He has a small scar above his lip (very Harry Potter!) from a nasty fall on the football field 15 years ago in school - he plays in midfield and captains his local club. He loves crisps, pasta and pizza and hates eggs. He's a primary school teacher, in a long term relationship, has a bit of ego, enjoys pints with the lads and sunny days. And he's quite good looking.

Now listen closely, here's the problem: I don't atually know what David looks like. For three years, David's face has been a blur. A handsome blur.

It has taken me three long years to visualise his face because i could never imagine a face good enough for him! I've read several books about how to write a novel (another way of procrastinating and putting off the acual writing!) and one book advises that prospective writers should cut out clippings of a particular model/actor/singer and post them all over their desk/ writing space so that they continually visualise their character as that person. Trust me this is much easier said than done. I've watched films, looked at ads, pored over magazines and I never, ever saw my David.

I've read about directors who have sat at casting calls for their films with dozens, if not hundreds, of actors reciting lines in front of them. Then all of a sudden, a young man will walk into the room and the director will freeze. He might be a new actor, maybe he's just a random guy providing moral support to his struggling actor friend.  Or maybe he's the janitor. But who cares, becuase the director spots him and straight away, it's like love at first sight: There's my main character.

Call me idealistic but I've waited for this moment for years with the hope that I would spot my David in a film, magazine, maybe even in the local supermarket! But no luck. I saw some faces that maybe, could be David but they were never good enough and they left my brain as quick as they entered. Like the eternal single gal looking for true love, I wasn't going to settle, I had to find Mr Right (face).

Then late last year, it happened. I found him; I found my David. It was love at first sight and I've never looked back.

I laid my eyes upon him in the most romantic of settings: a Kings of Leon video. Pyro is one of my favourite songs to write to, there's something inspirational/haunting about it...

Anyway, my David is basically the "good guy" in the video who walks into the bar, orders a drink and gets the c**p kicked out of him. Don't worry, I won't subject him to that kind of assault in my book. Well, we'll see...

Isn't he perfect? Minus the bruising and probable internal bleeding.

So I have no idea who this mystery man is (if anyone knows, please enlighten me as i would like to send him a thank you card!) but it doesn't matter because having an actual face for my David makes it so much more enjoyable to write. And if I find it enjoyable to write, I hope that'll make it more enjoyable to read for you guys!

Now excuse me while I go plaster photos of this lovely guy all over my laptop and desk.  Let's hope the boyfriend doesn't get jealous! ;)