Couch to 80k Week 6 Day 6 a Writer’s Manifesto

Couch to 80k podcast is a writer’s bootcamp with daily exercises by Tim Clare and is part of his Death by 1000 paper cuts blog.

Today’s Couch to 80k Podcast episode Week 6 day 6 is about creating your own writer’s manifesto, done primarily as a way for you to get to know what it is you’re doing this for. Tim suggests this, like all other entries, really doesn’t need to be thought of as something others will ever see – but me being an oversharing drama queen is sharing mine here.

I have a clear idea of why I want to write, it’s maybe not as fancy as I’ve written it in the manifesto (such as it is, remember it’s simply a 10 minute free write on why you want to write, so it will veer and contradict itself and sound rambly or nonsensical, I’m ok with all of that).

Basically I want to write because I have ideas that I want to see finished. That’s it. They bounce round my head, year after year every so often popping up and saying “OH HAI PAUL – remember me! I’m that idea you wrote down slightly differently every two months of 2012 but never actually finished”. The only ideas that I’ve had that feel “at peace” (as it were) are ones where I’ve handed them off to a writer and we’ve either co-written them, or the writer has done a better job than I ever would. I just want the voices to stop, man!

Anyway, I have plenty of other things to do today that are unrelated to writing (I’ve got two scripts right now that need read, both by very accomplished writers, so figured best to get my scabby efforts out of the way before seeing what they have ahead of me)

Here’s my personal writers manifesto (warning: it’s probably a bit wanky, as all such manifestos are…)

Personal writing Manifesto.

1. What am I trying to achieve

2. What do I want it to do.

Measure a circle starting anywhere.

Persona Writing Manifesto.

From a purely selfish point of view, and most acts of creation are purely selfish – arguably, the very best are, I want to write to bring different worlds to life. I don’t want to write a kitchen sink drama and have that define who I am as a writer, I want to write a kitchen sink drama, then a sci-fi epic, then a short comedy, then a James Bond story, then a quiet introspective piece.

I want to exercise all the different storytelling muscles in side me. I want to take the joy of telling an anecdote to two or three people in a small group and expand that to a much bigger audience and a much bigger anecdote that builds and builds to be a proper story.

I want to never feel bored of a genre, I want to dip in and out of different stories. I want to sit and think about a story, immerse myself in it, and enjoy the telling of it – to laugh at how ridiculous some of the ideas are, maybe for their scale, maybe for their silliness, maybe for how just-so-perfect they are and obvious in hindsight that, of course, this was always the way this should be, but still surprise people in the telling.

I would like an audience to hold their breath as I control exactly what point the hero saves the day.

I want thrill power, I want to be up-lifted as a writer, and a reader of the work. I want to write stories that I want to read. I want to find the gaps in the work that other writers leave and fill them with my imagination, expanding new worlds out from those in between places.

I want to finish things. I want to put my fingers on a keyboard, type “in the beginning” and not finish until I write “the end” and everything in between makes perfect sense and is, in it’s own way, a little parcel of perfection, telling one story that is complete and moving on to the next one.

It would be nice to make money doing this, but I’m not doing this for money, I’m doing it for me.

On the plus side that means I really can write what I want to write, no concession to editors, no concession to publishers, no concession to readers.

On the other hand, my natural instinct is to make things that I hope people will wildly enjoy. An audience who come out punching the air.

I want to write Alien, I want to write The Seven Voyages of Sinbad, I want to write Hellboy, I want to write the fantastic and I want it to be fantastic.

And I want to sit down and draw it.

Couch to 80k Week 6 Day 5

Yes, I fell off the wagon. Back on it now though.

Week 5 broke me a little, and I discovered it’s ok to cheat and miss and episode (since Tim isn’t likely to come round my house and demand I get back on that horse) so, of course, week 6 got tough – I find it nice and easy to just play with freewriting – just fill 10 minutes of my brain vomiting out nonsense to see where it goes. Of course, that’s only part of writing (probably the best part). There’s also making things make sense, stylistic choices, metaphor, similie, opening sentances, you know… actual work.

And that brings us to Week 6.

This has largely been writing things then rewriting them with specific stylistic choices (week 1: write a couple of minutes about something you’ve done, make it as straightforward as possible. NOW! Make it as flowery as possible, filled with metaphor, etc)

Today was take a first sentence from a novel and rewrite it, keeping the same basic structure but making it about anything else, really.

I do love a first line of a novel, when I was a student a Queen’s University Belfast, in the hallway of the student Union, where I’d sit while waiting on a rehearsal room to free up for whatever play it was I was doing at the time, the wall was festooned with first lines of novels, and I loved reading them. So many clever ways in.

(Here’s a brilliant list of them

As it happened, I grabbed a big old copy of the HP Lovecraft book Necronomicon for no other reason than it was the first novel I could see beside my drawing board (where I’m currently typing) and picked one story at random (truth to tell I wasn’t sure what the exercise was gonna be about, so didn’t seem like any choice would be a bad choice) and ended up with The Lurking Fear.

Here’s the first line of it:

There was a thunder in the air on the night I went to the deserted mansion atop Tempest Mountain to find the lurking fear.

(I’m now half convinced I played a Choose Your Own Adventure Game like this)

Anyway, the mission was to take the structure of this sentance, and replace all the nouns/verbs/adverbs/whatever with new ones to get a sentance with the same structure, but different things happening in it, so, for example:

There was a crackle in the fridge on the afternoon I went to the empty pizza place beside Macdonalds to find the ominous smell.

(That’s a terrible example, but you get my drift).

Now, I’ll be honest here, part of me is thinking “no! I want to write comics, not prose, and this is all about prose” so my brain slightly checking out – but that’s just me going “also this is HARD and I wanted this to be easy”.

Anyway, getting back on the horse means getting up early again and doing this stuff while everyone is asleep; that seems to be the best way to go.