katiefoolery: (Black Fiddle cover)
It’s strange the way things come back when you least expect them.  Black Fiddle has been doing that of late around here.  Well, not so much the story as Jeannie herself.  It’s not surprising - she’s a hard-headed, stubborn, determined sort of person, that Jeannie.  I don’t think she appreciates being shoved away to the back of my mind, forced to keep company with thoughts of never being brought to light again.

She popped up a while ago, while I was listening to some music.  As a result of that, I converted my old WordPerfect files (saved in forty-two individual chapter files) to four Word files.

And just half an hour ago, she returned while I was playing the piano.  I say “playing the piano”, but what I really mean is “bashing the keys in a frustrated fit of temper that made me extremely glad I always have my headphones plugged in so no-one can hear me”.  Sometimes, my fingers simply refuse to do what they’re told until they’re fully warmed up and it irritates me to the point of wanting to scream in despair.  So there I was, bashing away at a piece of music when I got so mad at myself that I decided to fight the song instead of just playing it.

Two voices immediately sprang to life in my head.

One said: One doesn’t fight music; one embraces it.  One flows with it.  One lets it into one’s soul and...

One wishes one would shut up about this touchy-feely, group-hugging, holistic music-playing nonsense.

The other voice said: No, fighting it is exactly what Jeannie would do.  Do it.  Feel what it’s like.

So I did.  And I won.

Moreover, Jeannie lodged herself so far in the forefront of my imagination that I came back to my computer and actually re-read the prologue.  It’s not bad, either.  I was thinking of posting it here and asking for opinions... but even though it’s not bad, neither is it great.  My beta’s eye can see many a thing wrong with it, such as the fact that it was written before I had fully welcomed the semi-colon into my life.

But, you know, I think I might be able to re-draft this story.  No, really.  I mean it this time.

Sometimes you create stories and characters that take on a life of their own and refuse to be forgotten.  Even when you think you’ve buried them for good, they claw their way back out and demand to be heard again, often at the strangest of times.  Has anyone else experienced that?
katiefoolery: (Black Fiddle cover)
So, now my Timothy of the many multi-tasking heads has caught this virus of mine and he is quite inexplicably annoyed.  I suppose I can understand this to some extent, although I find it more amusing than not.  When he first heard of my two days off work, he insisted on catching the virus too.

“Give it to me!  I want two days off work.”

To which I'd reply:

“Get your own virus!  I found this one and I’m keeping it.”

Indeed, the virus stayed quite loyal to me and didn't seem to want to fraternise with my Timothy or even Bindi.  Instead, he-of-the-multiple-heads spent most of the week taunting me with the lovely breakfast to which his workplace was being treated on Friday morning.  Oh, how he was looking forward to this breakfast.  What wonders would be there!  What fun he would have teasing me with the delights upon which he feasted!

Then, yesterday, he finally caught the virus and was unable to go to this breakfast.

There are my irony dollars, hard at work.  Worth every bit of whatever I paid for them.

In writing news, I’m feeling quite happy about my recent decision.  I read over one of my older stories - the first to do well in a competition, in fact - and enjoyed it immensely.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun.  It also served to highlight the one oddness about Black Fiddle that’s always puzzled me, viz. Why is Black Fiddle such a serious work?  All of my other stories and light-hearted and slightly humorous.  If you look at my other major work, The City, you’ll find that it’s quite different in tone.  The good [livejournal.com profile] blindmouse can attest to that.

So why is Black Fiddle so serious?  There are flashes of silliness and the occasional line that still manages to make me chuckle, but it’s mostly dead straight.  Maybe that’s something else I have to work on.  Maybe I need to find the humour and silliness and bring it out a bit more.

Maybe I should get right back to those scene breakdowns that were so enthralling me a few weeks ago...

Does anyone else experience that, though?  Do your stories all have a similar tone, or do they vary widely depending on what they're about?  I’d be most interested to know.
katiefoolery: (Sail my ship!)
Last night, or, more accurately, this morning, I had one of those dreams I actually remember, so I thought I'd write it down.  I call it Orpheus on a Bus, for reasons which will soon become clear...

Yes, I know.  ‘Odd’ doesn’t even come close, but it’s one of my dreams, right?  The only ones I ever remember are the bizarre ones.

So, in this dream, many people lived on enormous buses that traversed the country.  I really don’t know why they had such objections to living in houses that stayed right where they were, but there you go.  In this case, ‘I’ (not actually me) was waiting for my father’s bus.  I’d run away for some reason - I think I was a bit of a rebel - but I really needed my father’s help and I had some sort of loose arrangement with him that he’d be at this particular place at these particular times and if I ever needed to get back on the bus, then that was an option that was open to me.

So there I was, waiting.  I do believe there was someone with me; some sort of bodyguard.  We waited and waited... it was a bus-stop after all.  But there was no sign of my father’s bus.  Oh, did I mention that the bus contained a group of performers who travelled from town to town, putting on shows?  Well, consider it mentioned.

Just when I was about to give up hope of the bus ever arriving, it finally turned up.  I didn’t recognise it at first, because it was decorated in an entirely different fashion from the last time I’d seen it.  But there it was, with Orpheus’s Performing Whatever (yes, Orpheus) written on the side.

Time for a deep breath, me-who-isn't-me.

*deep breath*

And I go on board to stand before my father, in the full knowledge that he Doesn’t Approve of my running away and that I might be in incredibly Deep Trouble.

And that was it.  An entire dream, dedicated to waiting for a bus.

I have to admit, I had only the vaguest idea of who Orpheus actually was in mythology (unlike my subconscious, apparently).  I knew he went into the Underworld for some reason, but that was about it.  So I researched it.

Here were my favourite bits:
  • Orpheus's music was so beautiful that it charmed even inanimate objects.

  • [his] songs could charm wild beasts and coax even rocks and trees into movement.
I think it's interesting to compare this last quote with a direct quote from the original short story version of Black Fiddle, where Jeannie's grandmother is talking about an ancestor of Jeannie's, who could play the Fiddle: "He could make the hills sing and the rocks dance."

If you change the fact that Orpheus sings, whereas Jeannie (from Black Fiddle) plays a fiddle, you have some uncanny similarities there.  Although I’m the first to admit that Jeannie hasn’t gone around trying to charm wild beasts, I’m sure she could if she put her mind to it.

Essentially, my story of Jeannie is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice (except the bit where Jeannie’s trying to save her sister, rather than her lover).  At least, it had its beginnings there.  It’s changed a lot since I first wrote the original short story.  A lot.  I just wonder what my subconscious is trying to get at here.

Any suggestions?
katiefoolery: (Black Fiddle cover)
I know what’s wrong with Black Fiddle!  Even better, I know what’s right with it, too.  There’s so much right with it that I want to dance about and hug people.  I can even handily ignore the fact that I know there’s a great deal of work ahead of me because I’m actually looking forward to it.  That’s right - for the first time since I finished the first draft, I actually feel hopeful and positive about this second draft.  I think I can do it.

I finally have a smidgeon of faith in my abilities there.

I think the main reason for my dissatisfaction in the past has been the last third of the draft.  It’s not great.  But I know why it’s not great, now - because the ending is completely wrong.  It’s the wrong ending for the story entirely, in fact.  There’s a point where the story could go one of two ways and I took it the wrong way the first time around.  This time, I’ll go the other way and it will be better for it.

There’s so much work to do, though.  There are characters to be fleshed out and new ones to be introduced.  I have to resolve Jeannie’s relationship with Meggan - that’s an important one.  I think I let my own impatience with Meggan’s character intrude on Jeannie’s feelings and poor Meggan suffered as a result.  Most of what Jeannie does is for Meggan anyway, so there must be a reason behind that, beyond simply being sisters.

I have to spend a great deal of time with Cianan and induce him to tell me all his secrets.  The main reason he hardly tells Jeannie anything in the first draft is due to the fact that he wouldn’t tell me anything, either.  But he shall learn.  If he doesn’t behave, I’ll give him a limp and a wall-eyed countenance.

I thought I’d get rid of the Way of the Dead entirely, but the first half of it is actually quite good.

So, in an effort to make a start, tonight shall be spent painstakingly converting all of the scenes to single sentences.  I’m hoping this will assist me in re-arranging the structure of the story slightly.  The best bit is that it will make me feel productive!  The elusive second draft will finally begin!

*insert mad dance of excitement here*

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a couple of excerpts from the first draft with you all.  Please remember that these are completely untouched pieces - I wrote the first draft in one go and there has been no editing to speak of since then.

These three excerpts come from my favourite part of the book so far.  Jeannie has arrived in a city called Calladan and has been arrested and imprisoned for playing music in a market square.  She quickly learns that music is reserved for the wealthy elite and that she can expect to stay in prison until she either faces trial or is "bought".  Eventually, she ends up as a servant in a large house in Calladan, where she washes dishes, cleans floors and turns the pages for the daughter of the house as she plays her flute incredibly badly.

* * * * *

This excerpt comes from a section where Jeannie has been locked in an underground storeroom as punishment for, well, for being Jeannie, really.  She’s going ever so slightly insane when an unquenchable desire for music overtakes her.
Somewhere in the darkness, the longing for the Fiddle awoke in Jeannie... )

* * * * *

In her time as a servant in Calladan, Jeannie strikes up an uneasy alliance with a girl called Eilish.  But Eilish is no ordinary servant and Jeannie quickly learns the truth of her nature.  She has been brought up to hate people like Eilish, but when Eilish offers to teach her how to fill the empty spaces in her music, Jeannie can’t bring herself to refuse.
Five minutes was all she could stand... )

* * * * *

And then there's Cianan.  They bring out the worst and the best in each other and spend as much time hiding their own secrets as they do glaring at each other.  Jeannie’s servitude comes to an end when Cianan arrives, although Jeannie’s pride is stung to the core to be found in such a situation by such a person.
“What is this?” Cianan asked... )
katiefoolery: (Black Fiddle cover)
I’ve been reading through Black Fiddle in a desperate attempt to inspire myself to get started on that demmed elusive second draft... and it’s not that bad. Whenever I’m distanced from the manuscript, I always manage to convince myself that it’s horrible, that I’ll never have a chance of salvaging anything I’ve written because of its pure and unmitigated crapitude.

But I’m wrong.

Yes, the first section is pretty much expendable, but the later bits are a great deal better. Both Jeannie and Cianan keep saying things that make me laugh out loud, or snigger at the very least. And even the rubbishy bits aren’t as depressing as they should be, because I can see how they can be improved. The most cheering part of the whole process is seeing that much of what I’ve written can actually stay!

For the most part, I’m just glad to see that I still love this story and the characters within it. Their stories are every bit as important to me now as they were back when I first wrote the draft. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the re-read is that I know things now that I didn’t know when I was first writing characters such as Sheilagh and Fergal. And now that I know what I didn’t know but needed to know, well, I know a lot more. And that’s good to know.

I’m almost feeling positive about actually making a start on the second draft.
katiefoolery: (Default)
Every now and then, presumably in the middle of such weighty occupations as Hanging The Laundry Out And Looking In Despair At The Overgrown Garden or Playing With The Cat Instead Of Furthering One’s Literary Career, a question strikes at me with the force of a very striking question indeed. Oh yes it does. It won’t let me rest.

And it doesn’t help that my Timothy likes to ask the same question, too.

“When are you going to do the second draft of Black Fiddle?” they both want to know.

Well, I don’t know.

Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t know, but I think I do now.

My Timothy asked that question of me last night and rather than just shrugging and responding with my traditional, “I don’t know”, I actually thought about it. The first draft took several months of hard work. It wasn’t always fun. I did push myself and learn that I was capable of more than I had previously thought, but it was still a lot of hard work for a manuscript that I think is probably quite some distance from the possibility of publication. In fact, sometimes it seems so far away from publication that it would take several train trips and at least one long-haul flight to get there.

So I told my Timothy that I haven’t started on the elusive second draft because I’m just not looking forward to all that hard work. Because, essentially, it won’t be a second draft where I fix up passages and make sure the structure is OK. No, it’s going to involve me sitting down and writing another draft FROM SCRATCH.

Which was a little depressing last night.

Then there I was this morning, dithering about with nothing much to do, when a revelation made itself known to me. “Good morning,” it said. “I’m your revelation. OK, here goes: Have you ever wondered WHY you’re not looking forward to spending a lot of time on something you’re supposed to like?

Its job done, it gave me a crisp salute and marched out of the door.

However, it rang back later and presented me with a second revelation. “Me again,” it said. “Here’s the second-part of the revelation: Why don’t you start thinking of it as fun instead of hard work? Well, I think that’s me for today.”

So I stood there, with an imaginary phone in my hands, wondering at the import of these revelations (or this two-part revelation, whichever you prefer). All this time, I thought I was holding back from this fabled second draft because I didn’t know how to approach it or because I wasn’t sure what style of writing I should be using. In fact, I’m almost sure I thought I had a revelation about that a few weeks ago.

And then it turns out it’s been my attitude all along.
katiefoolery: (Default)
I channelled Jeannie just before.  For the uninitiated (ie. 97.743% of you), Jeannie is the main character of The Black Fiddle of Barnet, which I am theoretically getting back to work on, having finished the first draft over a year ago.  To return to my first statement: there I was, just sitting around, listening to a song expressing a desire to find a home the singer could call their own, when I was suddenly taken over by Jeannie.  It was the most plendiferous insight into a character I've ever experienced.  In fact, it revealed that Jeannie's heartache goes deeper than even I imagined and that one of the images she holds closest to her heart is that of her father riding away from their house, warning them not to follow him, for he had caught a disease that was ravaging the country and his presence could endanger their very lives.  This is the scene in Black Fiddle:

She remembered herself at seventeen, when her father came riding into the yard, his hair in disarray.
     “It’s here,” he had cried.  “Stay away from me.  I held him as he died!”
     Her mother and grandmother had paled at the news.  Careen had run out into the yard, but Martin was already riding away.
     “I love you!” he had cried to the wind.  “Don’t follow me.  Please don’t follow me!”

It was the last image she had of her father, riding away as the wind tore up his words.  The image will never leave her.  It haunts her.

I guess it means this scene definitely stays in the re-write.

April 2011

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