Distractions

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Having researched, completed and published the vital, essential-that-I-spend-three-hours-on-this, ‘difficult second book/album phenomenon’ post, I found myself having to buckle down and do some proper writing. But only for a while. I managed to find another distraction.

This distraction wasn’t online poker, sudoku or experimenting with the different places I could put my (unwritten) subsections on the Scrivener corkboard. Oh no, this was another vital, must-be-done-this-instant, serious distraction.

Let me tell you the full story. It concerns my second novel. I’ve got plenty of time.

My characters are set in a 1930s ish mining village in the Welsh valleys. It’s a place, if not a time, that I am very familiar with. In my childhood there were still echoes of those days in the remnants of the Welsh language spoken, the clothes, the attitudes. I’ve tried to incorporate some of these half-remembered, third-hand-me-down elements into my book.

Let me explain. Even today in Wales there is the odd Welsh word or phrase that creeps into English-speaking areas – dad, eisteddfod, penguin. Penguin, really. It’s from ‘pen gwyn’ (white head). As a child there were many more examples. I remember my grandmother calling me a ‘dirty mochyn’ (pig) when I came home from rugby covered in mud. The outside toilet was known as the ‘ty bach’ (small house). Distracted by these thoughts, and in the name of research, I started googling and eventually found  an excellently distracting post by Steffan Rhys:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/21-things-you-only-remember-6366551

I digress. Back to my story. I was describing a funeral in one scene and imagining the sight. I remember my first funeral. The men wore shiny suits and caps, not hats, flat caps. These were called ‘dai caps’. This was something I remember from over 40 years ago so I thought I would add them for some colour. Just two words – dai caps. I thought I’d better google them to make sure of ….. something or other. A few hours later I have learnt nothing useful except that they are fashionable now in some quarters and Brad Pitt sometimes wears one.

The point of this lecture, however, is not dai caps or Brad Pitt or my nanna. It’s about distractions. I was appalled with myself when I noticed the time I had wasted on two words. I had spent most of the morning googling, checking, surfing. At this rate the book would take … just let me work it out.. No. Stop. It would take a very long time.

No more distractions for me. But how to stop myself. I googled ‘distractions writing’ and started reading the articles. What I can gather is that there are lots of tips and gadgets and stuff that can help you. For instance there’s one that limits the time you’re allowed on the ‘blocked sites’ you set up. There’s a programme that gives you an ambient sound and a ‘focusing’ background image to keep you single-minded somehow. Apparently this isn’t a new problem. Herman Melville, writer of a book about a whale and great great great grand-uncle of musician ‘Moby’ had his wife chain him to his writing table.

I’m thinking now that the problem may be that I write in a room in a house. How amazing would it be to have JD Salinger’s shed at the bottom of the garden? Or to have George Bernard Shaw’s hut he called ‘London’? Or even get away from it all and write in a motel like Jim Harrison? Or maybe, just maybe I could go away to Llaugharne and write in Dylan Thomas’ boathouse. It looks like an amazing distraction-free place to write.

Where would be the best place to write? Now that could be an interesting blog. Perhaps I could do some research……….

You can read the opening chapter of ‘Mynydd Eimon: Private Hell’ here, or you can get the book on Amazon and Kindle here

The Difficult Second Album / Book Syndrome (DSAS / DSBS)

kulashaker

The Difficult Second Album Book Syndrome (DSAS DSBS)

This has come as something of a shock to me. I had written a number of non-fiction books and they seem to come out ok. They are quite tedious to write, of course, once the initial enthusiasm starts to wane. However there was always something for me to do; something to keep me away from the online poker and moving forward – some research, some tidying up the grammar, some renumbering of the pages, or trying out new fonts.

With a fiction book – there’s not. I assumed the second book would be easier. As part of a series I have the characters, the location, and have set the tone – all aspects that took a while to get right. However it’s not as easy as I thought.

In an effort to help me understand the DSBS (and of course to deflect from actually working on the DSB) I decided to do a little research.

The DSBS or sophomore slump or second season syndrome is not restricted to writers of course. There are many examples of the great difficulty of following a success with another success.  In the world of Premier League football look no further than two superstars, for a year, who spectacularly failed to continue that success – Fernando Torres and Javier Hernandez. Now without going into all the reasons these millionaire players failed to live up to their early promise, we can imagine the psychology; perhaps it’s a little complacency, perhaps it’s difficult to get motivated. These may be things writers can identify with – well the lack of motivation definitely.

The more interesting parallel though comes from other forms of entertainment – films, music and books.

There are a number of spectacular failures for the film sequel:

‘Shock Treatment’, the follow up to ‘The Rocky Horror Show’;

‘The Sting 2’;

‘Staying Alive’ follow up to ‘Saturday Night Fever’;

‘After World’s Collide’, the magnificent follow up to ‘When World’s Collide’.

And these films almost, almost, got made – I kid you not:

‘ET2: Nocturnal Fears’;

‘Casablanca 2: Brazzaville’;

More bizarrely, perhaps, for the sequel to ‘Gladiator’ – ‘Gladiator 2‘, rock star Nick Cave wrote a treatment. You couldn’t make it up. Well I couldn’t.

Some embarrassing second albums include:

‘Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts’ (Kula Shaker);

‘Endlessly’ (Duffy);

‘Pinkerton’ (Weezer);

And ‘Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie’ (Alanis Morrisette).

Showing my age and influences I know.

As writers of course we could never succumb to commercial pressure and produce sequels that were not adding to the rich tapestry we created in the original. However, sometimes even literary sequels have proved less than successful:

‘Scarlet’, follow up to ‘Gone with the Wind’;

‘Return to Peyton Place’, follow up to … well you have a guess;

’The Serious Reflections of Robinson Crusoe’;

‘Tom Sawyer, Detective’;

and the ever to be forgotten ‘Son of Rosemary’ follow up to ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, and the film sequel ‘ Look What Happened to Rosemary’s Baby’.

I refuse to name names here – even writers need to eat.

There are many, many good examples, even in the world of music – ‘The Bends’ – Radiohead – but they are less interesting than failure – well, to us anyway.

Ok distraction over. Back to the sequel. Where was I?

You can read the opening chapter of ‘Mynydd Eimon: Private Hell’ here, or you can get the book on Amazon and Kindle here