Saturday, September 24, 2011

Debi does Quantum (again)

Well, hasn't this been a week for mind bending science?  Time bending too, is seems.  Though my teeny tiny mind is struggling with the concepts and it seems I'm not alone.  

(Struggling already?  Don't know what a neutrino is?  Think 'atom' and then think MUCH smaller - then divide that a few more zillion times and you're beginning to see just how small these little beasties are. Only whatever you come up with, neutrinos are smaller.  They really are very, very small indeed.)

Anyway, as I understand it (ie not at all) what scientists at Cern think (because 'proof' is apparently a long way off) is that neutrinos might be able to move faster than light and ain't nothing in the universe that's supposed to be able to do that.  (Though my sons move pretty fast when I tell them to tidy their room.)  

Thing is, this is Really Important because, if true, it undermines the whole way we understand (or in my case, fail to understand) ... well, everything really.  Because that 'everything' is based on Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity. (He had other theories but they weren't so special.  I have one about Ordinary Relativity which explains why we all have some family members who are rather boring.)

So - all this Matters (think there might be a science-y joke there) because it opens up questions about the possibility of time travel.  Taken to its logical conclusion, it means something could arrive before it leaves.  Geddit?

Oh, look, you might have guessed by now that I'm several billion billion neutrinos short of being an expert so I'm going to try to relate all this to the craft of writing fiction.

Some time back, I dabbled (in the most amateurish possible way) with quantum theory, when I focused on whether it's possible for fictional plotlines to exist in parallel universes.  Now I'm going to gird my loins and switch attention to how the same theory might relate to the way we create fictional characters.

Now, this is going to take a bit of explaining, even on the basic kindergarten level I'm operating on here with my aforementioned teeny tiny brain, so make yourself comfortable and prepare to make the ... er ... quantum leap into Debiworld (or one of them).

For starters, you need to accept the initial concept of an infinite number of parallel universes.  In other words,  each time any of us comes to a fork in one of life's many roads, a new world is created in which we take the other path.  If you also accept that we are the sum of our experiences, as we make hundreds of these sorts of decisions every day, it stands to reason that each of these worlds contains a different version of us, sometimes varying by the merest tweak, at other times resulting in us becoming completely different people.

Got that? 

In still more other words, if you accept that we are the sum of our experiences, it's logical to believe that there are an infinite number of ways we turn out. In some worlds, we probably die young; in others we may live to 100.  At its most extreme, in one world you might be a dictator and in another, a victim, yet both would be versions of the same 'you'. 

Right.  You still with me?  Do pay attention please.  We're about to get to how this connects with writing fiction.

(In another universe, I will have got to the point earlier.  If the new stuff turns out to be right, I got there before my fingers hit the keyboard.  In yet another, I'll ramble on for ever and never get there.  In that one, a version of you might hunt me down and slap me, thereby creating yet another universe.  In that one, I will have a black eye.  One 'me' will then sue you for assault.  Another will fight back, giving you two black eyes.  etc etc etc ...)

So ... ah, yes, the point. 

Whenever I create a new fictional character, I'm aware that she is a version of ... me.  She's based on a particular aspect of my character but it takes her in a direction that the Debi who is writing this post would never go.  As a result of that, things happen to her that would not happen to 'this' me.  And as a result of those experiences, she changes still more, becoming someone who bears no resemblance at all to me.  But, maybe, she's a 'me' who does exist in one of those other infinite universes.

OK, so now we get to the point where the 'you' who is reading this tells the 'me' who's writing it if I'm talking unadulterated rubbish or if I'm on to something here.  Or both.  Or ...

In one universe, there's a Debi who wins the Nobel Prize for the above.  
In another, I already have.
In this one, I'll be dismissed as a rambling incontinent.  Them's the breaks.
There.  I hope you understand it all now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Winning Formula

Once again, I'm in the position of having some wonderful news to share.

I first met Dania el Kadi when she came on one of the Writers' Workshop courses I ran with Emma Darwin.  From the beginning it was clear that Dania had something special.  Her writing was fresh and original and it was immediately obvious her concept (chick lit story set against a back drop of the war in Lebanon) had serious potential.

Following the course, Dania had more than one edit with me, finishing up with a close line edit to ensure the MS was polished to perfection. It took time, hard work and commitment to bring her wonderful story to life, but it has certainly paid off.

Earlier this week, I received an email from Dania to tell me that her book, Summer Blast, is a number 1 bestseller in Lebanon!  This is the link to the good news breaking on WordCloud. I'm looking forward to seeing Dania at the Getting Published event in October.

Summer Blast is available on Amazon.

Don't go away! I'm not done yet and have more to share. 

Last night I went to a very special book launch

Why 'special'? I hear you ask.  Well, for starters it was in a gorgeous bookshop, Woolfson and Tay in Bermondsey.  The format of an interview with the author was also different and made for a really interesting evening.

But without a doubt, the most special aspect of the event was the author, Michael Richmond, and the book he had written.  Drawing on personal (and very painful) experiences, Sisyphusa is an allegory of the mental health system.  Michael's writing is influenced by Kafka and Orwell and, as you can guess from the title, also owes much to classical Greek mythology.

This is an important book.  It was important for Michael to write it and it's equally important for people to read it and try to understand how it feels to grapple with mental health issues, both as a sufferer and as a 'service user' (a term that is used in the book but one that Michael dislikes).  As Michael pointed out, one in four people will fall into this category.

Most importantly, it's clear from the discussions and readings that the book is a stonking good read, written with wit, wisdom, humour and astonishing insight.

Sisyphusa is available on Amazon here

So, getting back to that winning formula. (Ha!  You thought I'd forgotten, didn't you ...)

Here it is:

fresh and original concept + writing talent + a willingness to learn and improve + objective feedback + hard work + perseverance 

Monday, September 12, 2011

In Praise of Writers' Groups

All authors need objective feedback, whether it be from trusted readers, paid editorial services, online forums or Real Life writers' groups.

Regular visitors here will know the personal debt I owe to the East Dulwich Writers' Group.  This is from my biog:

I joined the East Dulwich Writers' Group although I had no previous experience of writing fiction apart from an abortive attempt to crack the women’s magazine short story market several years earlier. (Each story would start sweet enough but then gradually turned dark and twisted! Clearly my inner voice calling out ...) I wrote Nirvana Bites in the evenings in long hand lying on the settee and then typed it up in chunks using borrowed laptops. Eighteen months later, I had my first book deal!

You will also be aware that EDWG has produced two anthologies, Hoovering the Roof 1 and 2.  The books are an eclectic mix of short stories, poems and novel extracts, complete with original illustrations.

Last year, we won the runners up prize in the National Association of Writers' Groups anthology awards.

This year ... we've only gone and won!

And here's the proof.

There's nothing quite like a good writers' group for providing constructive feedback and encouragement.  The best groups (and EDWG is certainly one of them) form a local community of supportive writers, sharing skills and stories, celebrating successes and commiserating when the going is hard.

There isn't one in your area?  Set one up yourself.  Post on your local community forum or stick up notices in the library or local bookshop.  That's how we started.  A decade later, we have over 200 people on the email list, consisting of authors at every stage of their writing career, from those of us who have been published to absolute beginners.  We keep to a maximum of 8 people at each meeting and have retained an informal and intimate ethos, in spite of our numbers.  The email list is also used to share details of events and other items of  lit interest.

Some of our members are also winners of prestigious competitions.  And now the group itself has won recognition with the NAWG award.  Did I mention that already?  Did you know?

We won!  We bloody well won!

For further details of the group, check out our website.  You can also follow us on Facebook.  And if you buy the books directly from us, you can do that here with a discount.

Oh, and in case you hadn't noticed ... WE WON!  Perhaps I mentioned that already ...