One of my more serious ambitions in life is to write a book. Well, specifically to write a novel, as one could argue a thesis counts as a book (certainly 3 years and 150 pages gotta count for something!) They say that everyone has at least one novel in them, and I’d like to let mine out.

I obviously enjoy writing, ‘cos I keep a ‘blog (after a fashion). My mother-in-law very kindly gave my an Amazon voucher for Christmas – so I took the plunge and got myself a book on writing a book. Specifically How to Write Your First Novel (Creative Writing) by Sophie King.

Enjoying it so far. I have a fairly good idea of what my story is going to be about already, so I skipped over the first two chapters, which are all about thinking up plots and characters.

Chapter 3 is all about “finding your voice”, and it’s got some great exercises in it, which amount to basically sitting down and writing for 5 minutes. It starts off as pure stream-of-conciousness writing, but moves on to mini stories or scenes written in a certain style. In that regard, it reminded me of “Who’s Line is it Anyway”, where you have to read the credits in the style of a Gangsta Rappa (or whatever).

So far I’ve written in the styles of a detective novel (that actually turned into a Sci-fi), a chick-lit, and a romance. I very much doubt that these fledgling efforts will ever see the light of day, but it was fun to do.

I sort of feel like I already have a voice, but it’s an interesting experiment to try out different styles. I can’t say I found any one harder than another, particularly – just different.

One thing I did observe is that I can visualise things in my head, but they don’t necessarily make it onto paper.

For instance, my detective scene takes place in a dark alley at night. It’s drizzling, and there is no natural light to speak off. The walls are concrete, with big wheelie bins and rubbish sacks piled against them. It’s just off a main street, with dim street lights, and some shop or other opposite, which is closed but has a neon sign blinking on and off. The alley is a dead-end, ending at a tall brick wall, that may or may not have a door in it. It’s smelly and sordid, and not the sort of place you would feel safe. The main street itself is in a bad part of town, and doesn’t have any significant traffic, although there are probably ladies touting for business on the corners.

That’s how it appeared in my head.

What I wrote down was:

The dark alley was intermittently lit by the flicker of a broken neon lamp, revealing 2 men – one crouching on the ground, examining something, the other standing up, looking around nervously.

Obviously with a 5 minute time limit you can’t go crazy with descriptive prose, and I believe that part of the writer’s art is to conjure an image in the readers’ eye without having to be explicit about everything. My alley is heavily inspired by Bladerunner and 1,001 American detective movies, so perhaps the brevity hooks into that – my concern (if you like) is that I can’t help but to visualise the scene I had in my mind when I wrote “the dark alley”, but I have not necessarily conveyed it.

Anyway, the upshot of this mighty rambling is that I’m going to try to practice writing more. Specifically more blog posts. My regular reader will know I’ve dug out my old laptop, so I can indulge in the bloggers arts without hogging the computer (or being shut away in the study), so my hopes are high.

I’ve actually got another post brewing in my mind – about names, callsigns, and avatars – but I might not have time tonight. (The less prosaic task of writing “thank you” letters on behalf of my son unfortunately comes first).