One of the writing exercises I sometimes ask of students is for them to pen me a six-word novel. This is harder many people think. It’s an exercise in synthesis, in communicating an idea or emotion without wasting a word. Keeping it raw and visceral.
Over the years I’ve been speaking in schools, I’ve read six-word novels that tore at my heart, tickled my funny bone and silenced classrooms. One standout, to paraphrase, read something like, ‘Mum in psych ward. Social stigma.’ Tell me you couldn’t find an entire YA novel in that effort.
I’m reminded of this exercise today because the book that gave me the idea for the six-word novel activity features another powerful story. I don’t have it with me today but it is similar to: ‘Not quite what I had expected.’ And that’s sort of my story of 2015.
Or, ‘Took full time job. Manuscript stalled.’
Perhaps that’s doing myself an injustice. While working two jobs this year, and speaking in schools now and again, I did manage another draft of my long-term project.
A friend recently read the manuscript and had good things to say. But the clincher was that I could do specific parts of the story better. The friend even named an author (way out of my league) and challenged me to aim higher. That’s the task for me for 2016; take the best parts of my manuscript and make every other part reach just as high.
I’m already on a third or fourth draft but I’m going to define, delete and cull big time on on the next one. That’s writing. A story can always be improved.
Speaking of which, every year brings stories of pain, hope and resilience but 2015 delivered several that still echo inside me. My Christmas prayers go to families dealing with mental illness, addiction, chronic illness, grief and disharmony. Good news stories are out there, people. We do overcome all sorts of challenges. Racism, hate and sickness can be defeated.
Enough sermonising. I usually throw in a list or two to my end of year post, partly to remind myself of highlights from page, stage & screen. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Listening: Meet the Eels – Essential Eels (1996-2006); The Decemberists’ What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World; Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams; Oz by Missy Higgins; Tame Impala – Currents; the Blade Runner soundtrack; Gon’ Boogaloo by CW Stoneking.
Reading (highlights): American Gods by Neil Gaiman; Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Summers of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell; Born to Run by Christopher McDougall; The Walking Dead graphic novels.*
Watching: The Walking Dead; X-Files reruns! (Very excited Scully and Mulder are coming back!)
Lastly, I was very chuffed to have a football story included in The Footy Almanac 2015 and *I’m loving reading the work of other authors within. The Almanac would make a great Christmas present – perfect for beach reading. You can whack in an order here: http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/
To all the readers who have stuck with me, thank you. I hope your 2016 brings good health and good times.