Writing, not blogging

It feels faintly ridiculous to write a blog post about not writing more blog posts, but that’s what this is. I’m working on my second novel, and I tend not to read or write much of anything else when I’m in that mode. I guess I turn into even more of a recluse than usual: an intellectual hermit, sealed into my own little bubble of creation. When I was writing Gemsigns last year I’d go days without talking to another soul.

I suspect this isn’t all that healthy, so I’m going to make an effort not to become entirely uncommunicative. There’s also the little matter of the editorial, production and promotional processes leading up to the publication of Gemsigns next March. Indeed, I’m lucky that I do have another book to write by then (manuscript due in April), otherwise I think I’d be completely distracted by what’s already happening and what’s to come. As it is I can’t help feeling a little stunned by something like this. Thank you, Jo Fletcher Books. It makes me feel … it makes me feel … well, wonderful. And like I’ve got to really make sure the second book lives up to the first.

So if you notice me not writing here, rest assured it’s because I’m writing elsewhere. I’ll try to pop in at least every couple of weeks to let you know how I’m getting on, wrestle out loud with literary problems, and share any other news and views. I may post a bit more often to my Facebook page; I’d be chuffed to bits if the people who like this one liked that one as well.

(Oh, and in case anyone’s interested: not counting the reams of notes, character sketches, random phrases and lines of dialogue, the word count for the new book currently stands at 4,800. That’s Chapter 1, most of Chapter 2, and a crucial scene that will form the core of Chapter 3. Given that the target is roughly 100,000+ words and 30-ish chapters, it’s still very early days.)

Have you decided on a name yet?

As a new blogger, I’ve run up against a quandary. What do I call the thing?

I hadn’t thought about it in advance, and the reams of instruction and advice that WordPress kindly provides does not appear to extend to the dark art of choosing the right name. And it is an important decision, as any poorly-titled adolescent will tell you. The right one will help win you friends and followers, impress them with your wit and worth, make you memorable. The wrong one – not so much. But I hadn’t considered any of this yet, so I started off using my own name, and staring blankly at the invitation to add something descriptive. What was this blog going to be about? Why was I here? A phrase drifted into my head, a line from an old song that seemed to capture it. And so I started off as Stephanie Saulter | talking back to the night.

But then, a couple of days later as I trawled through experimenting with widgets and themes, I got to thinking. I already have something of an online identity as Scriptopus, the creative writing web app I started a couple of years ago. It’s my handle on Twitter and Goodreads. Shouldn’t I be consistent? Maintain that name, the already familiar tagline? I found where you could change it and, hey presto, became Scriptopus | How many stories can you write today?

And that was okay for a couple more days, during which I was focused on something other than setting up the blog. But then I came back to it, and I thought Hang on. I’ve got this wrong. The Scriptopus website is about group writing. It’s fundamentally collaborative. This blog is supposed to be about what I write, read and think. An expression of the individual, not a report from the collective. Plus by then I’d figured out how to manipulate menus and pages. I realised I could do my duty to the website without saying anything, much less emblazoning it across the header, simply by inserting a tab with a link. So I did that, and reverted to the original title/tag combination, and loaded up a few poems and bits of prose, and went away happy.

You’ve figured out the pattern by now.

I’ve been reading blogs, you see. Other people’s. I’ve been laughing at the creativity of their nomenclature, nodding solemn agreement with their witty tags, and noticing that very few of the good ones use anything as pedestrian and unmemorable as a personal name. It seems like a point of pride almost. And I’d like to feel I belong to this club.

So back to Settings > General > Site Title > Tagline. And a growing sense of ridiculousness. I’m annoyed with myself now, and to anyone else I may have annoyed along the way, my deepest apologies. I’ve made a decision: my name in the URL and authorial credits, the former tagline as title, a simple description. That’s it. This is it, at the top of the screen. No more faffing about. Done.

Unless of course …

On becoming a writer

I’m a writer.  I never used to say that out loud, and it still sounds strange and new to me. Which is odd, because I have written and written and written, for years and years and years. Oh, it never said so on a business card. Those always said Manager of this, Director of that. Executive. Consultant. Different responsibilities, different industries even. But all of them, without exception, required thinking about things, and the coherent organisation of those thoughts into a narrative, and the writing down of that narrative. Marketing copy, reports, proposals, policies, strategies. Not as boring as it sounds, and it pays the bills, and I’m good at it.

But the really interesting stuff was always … the other stuff. Scribbled down randomly, irregularly, almost in secret. In the last five minutes before falling asleep, or between appointments. Half an hour’s jolting ride on a train, pen skipping and juddering across a poem or an essay or an imagined conversation. A weekend, maybe, spent in pyjamas, lost in an idea, a marathon effort to get – it – down before time and mental space ran out.

Gradually, more of this. More time, commitment, more of a need for it. As with so much else it turns out the more you do, the more you can do. So weekends become weeks, weeks become months. Verses become poems, a snatch of dialogue morphs into a screenplay. An idea, a strange, shapeless notion about an inexplicable character in an unthinkable circumstance reveals itself as a novel. And that has turned out to be the most powerful experience yet. You become omnipotent, layering slivers of reality onto a foundation of whim, until the world inside your head feels as complex as the one outside.

There’s no going back after that. I’m a writer. Here I am.

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

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