Monday, 22 November 2010

place and purpose

Wonderful insights into your thinking and writing, Ciara. Thank you.

Place has also been a primary theme in my writing, whether it’s fiction or journalism. A strong,  nuanced and well-integrated description of place within a narrative not only puts a story in geographic, cultural, political, social, and psychological context, it gives the story more texture, depth, and richness, than it would otherwise have, which provides the reader with a much more satisfying experience.

There are other things my fiction and journalism have in common. I read somewhere that there are writers who write sentences, some who write paragraphs, some who write chapters, and then those who write books. Myself, I’m a  sentence writer. ‘Doesn’t matter if I’m writing novels or journalism or even advertising copy, I find myself focusing much of my creative energies on crafting each sentence as an individual work unto itself. I also expend a lot of effort on crafting a strong lead sentence and compelling lead paragraph. I’ve never been known as a particularly tough editor, but my staff reporters and freelancers would probably all tell you that I’m pretty unforgiving when it comes to lame leads.

Having said that, writing a novel is for me a spiritual experience. Whereas journalism is not. Which goes to your question about my statement that writing Thin Blue Smoke fundamentally my understanding of myself.

Three years on, I continue to be surprised that Thin Blue Smoke even exists. I didn’t think I had a novel in me. But I did. In fact, I now think I may have three in me. Maybe four. (If I live that long. I’m a slow writer.) That’s the first way in which my understanding of myself has changed.

The process of writing the novel also was something catharsis for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but my journalism career was coming to an end and I was approaching a professional and personal crossroads. At both conscious and subconscious levels, I was dealing with some of life’s bigger issues — loss, love, squandered gifts and opportunities, purpose and direction, and whiskey. Not coincidently I suspect these are the main themes of the novel.

Finally, about six weeks or so from completing the book, I realized that a peace had quietly come over me and that I had come know that writing this novel (and perhaps others) was what God had (has) in mind for me, which is something I have struggled to know my entire life.

The second novel is progressing slowly. Painfully slow. But I like the basic story even better than the first. I expect it to take me another two years to finish. Juggling a full-time day job and full-time parenting sometimes means I may only write two or three sentences a day. But they’re usually really good sentences.

* * *

So, David. My first question has less to do with the process of writing a story and more to do with creating a story. Your novel, Shock and Awe is a suspense/action thriller based on real-life geo-political, military, and espionage scenarios. What stories, plots, characters has your fertile mind imagined based on some of the world’s current conflicts; Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea (maybe Chechnya, perhaps Venezuela)?

Next, which is more satisfying to write, the action sequences or the internal moral conflicts your characters struggle with?

Finally, who would you cast in the major motion picture version of Shock and Awe?    


C. N. Nevets said...

Doug, thanks for that wonderfully evocative description of your experience of becoming an author. I'll have to add your book to my TBR list.

Tim Stretton said...

Doug, take your time over No.2

I know it'll be worth the wait!

Frances Garrood said...

Doug - I love the gentle, measured way you talk about your writing. I tend to feel rushed and anxious; you seem to be quite the opposite. Very good luck with the next novel.

David Isaak said...

Oh, you definitely have more novels in you. Begetting novels begets even more novels, I think.

Thanks for the questions, too. They have set that hollow space between my ears rattling as if something is inside.

David Isaak said...

By the way, you're in good company. Nabokov was a sentence writer, too. Indeed, if we believe what he claimed, he wrote the individual sentences down on index cads before deciding how they went together.

(I find that rather hard to believe, myself. But he did indeed have shapely sentences.)

Ciara Hegarty said...

Hi Doug, so beautifully answered. It's clear that writing is in your bones :) I've enjoyed taking time to read everyone's answers thus far and feel very privileged to have contact with so many talented authors! Big huge hanks to Aliya for posting my answer for me - will try to remember my username/password and get on here more often (although have only just realized one can just post without needing this - arghh!) Happy writing all, Ciara x

Aliya Whiteley said...

You're welcome!

Great answers, Doug.

Alis said...

Doug - that's a really revealing answer, thank you. I think I'm a sentence writer too - or maybe a scenes and sentences writer. It's stringing it all together into a novel that takes the time!!

Brian McGilloway said...

Great post, Doug. Mind you, having read your work, it doesn't surprise me that you approach writing with such care and consideration; its shows in your work. Good luck with the new one.

Doug Worgul said...

Thank you, all, for your kind words and encouragement.

We Yanks celebrated Thanksgiving here yesterday. I'm grateful for each of you.