Dilemmas

I’m settling into work, which is kinda cool as I’m already slated to interview luminaries such as the Lord Mayor of Perth and an unnamed West Coast Eagles footballer (being raised on League in Sydney, “Go the Sharks!”, I’ll refrain from labelling any AFL player a ‘star’ or ‘hero’ except in a poncy context, “Go the Sharks!”) . That’s fairly cool. I also get to impress cute-sounding receptionists when I call by saying, “Hi, I’m Shane, I’m the editor of ‘such and such’ magazine”. As an aside, in the short time I’ve spent working at this magazine, I’ve noticed two distinct reactions to the ‘fame’ promised by being interviewed or appearing in some other capacity in a widely distributed trade magazine: an oddly vehement ‘put upon’ reaction, or exuberance. There’s little in between. It’s a fascinating anthropological experience.

Anyhoo…

The dilemma of the title… now I’m settling into work, my mind has turned to novels in a considerable way. I love short stories, they give me a buzz and a sense of accomplishment, but really, writing novels is kinda how it has to be for a sustainable writing career. Martin’s success with Lothian/Time Warner Books has spurred me into submitting something for their upcoming reading period. That’s where my dilemma lies.

On the one hand, I have Harbinger, a novel of considerable length (about 90k words right now) but with the ending to be written (easily another 20-30k words). It also needs a *considerable* overhaul, as much of the ms was written prior to me actually understanding what really constitutes good writing. While it needs heaps of work, it also has a set of characters I’m rather attached to, and a world that’s been brewing in my mind for a decade. Many of the sections are cliche, or need more narrative threads, and the ms is oddly schizophrenic with supernatural horror and Matthew Reilly-esque action sequences (a quiet gothic action/thriller, anyone?). However, Harbinger has been my stumbling block for the best part of five years. Whether now or in the future, it will be finished (especially as it’s the first of a trilogy/quartet). I’ve faced considerable pressure from family to complete it.

On the other hand, I have within me the nucleus of a new novel based on a short story of mine (workshopped at Clarion South) titled Singing in Prague – the short story is presently unpublished, but that will no doubt change as I consider it one of my best stories. The novel is to be titled Société du Rêveur (Society of the Dreamer) – although I’m not sure about the French bit. Without wanting to sound completely up-myself, with Singing in Prague as the introduction/first chapter (about 4000 words), I have a brilliant hook and opening with strong language. The rest of the novel, based on some sketchy notes, promises to be a kick-arse Lovecraftian-style epic – but more than that, it promises to be a character piece about damaged people, very damaged, struggling with a (literally) tenuous world. Writing Society of the Dreamer would need to be done in 90-100 days (the old 1000 words a day chipmonk returns) to meet the Lothian deadline of 30 June. I don’t know if I can be that disciplined. I haven’t developed enough writing ‘muscle’ to stay disciplined for 1000 words a day, every day, for a three month stretch.

Here’s a sample (unedited) from Harbinger:

Like coalescing shadows, figures grew from the darkness. Grey shapes, form and visage indistinct, lunged forward. From his vantage point, metres away, the shapes jerked toward him with alarming speed. Whether it was his aching eyes or a trick of the gloom, he couldn’t focus on the figures. He saw the movement, heard the awful scraping but he hadn’t a clue what the hell they were. Like a displaced tide of grey leather, they came at him.

Here’s a favoured sample from Singing in Prague/Society of the Dreamer:

The gentleman in the grey suit approached, and lingered within arms reach. He bent down close to Len, his mirrored glasses reflecting the bruises closing Len’s left eye.

“I have three sides now.” The man’s tone was oddly accented, like autistic French. He offered up his Rubik’s Cube – the blue, red, and white sides converged at one corner. As he shifted a finger, a bloody print lay beneath, staining the white squares.

His smile revealed two rows of teeth as neat and symmetrical as the squares of the cube.

What to do, what to do…

Music on rotation: Cemetery – silverchair

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