The wretched creative process by Barbara Nadel

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God help us, but this isn’t an easy job! Anyone who ever tells you that being a writer is ‘soft’ either doesn’t know anything about it or is just too trite for his or her own good. Whatever, he or she needs a good kicking, in my opinion.

I am in the process of wrestling with a plot. In crime fiction, everything has to work. You have to have a beginning, a middle and an end, a protagonist, a couple of good guys, some people who are not really involved but could be, maybe some love, some sex, a few weird and disordered spotty teenagers. But that’s not the hard bit. Making sure that your murder is possible/plausible and ensuring that your bad guy can actually do it without being seen by random people, CCTV cameras, some bloke’s mobile phone camera, patrolling cops, Father Christmas or the Man in the Moon is no mean feat. And then he or she has to have a motive, which has to make sense AND to cap it all, sometimes, the damn thing has to tell us something about ourselves as human beings too. When I said wrestling, I really did mean wrestling.

I’ve got stuff everywhere at the moment. Homeless soldiers waiting to be slaughtered, a happy young wife who doesn’t know that her world is about to get suddenly very dark, a really chilling artefact that I’ve never heard of in any crime story ever before EVER. All I need to do now is knit it all together to make one great big, glorious, coherent, whole.

And that, of course, is the bit that is totally eluding me at the moment. I’ll do it, but just right now all I want to really do is bang on about the comedian Joan Rivers. She’s one of my favourites because she just doesn’t care. As well as looking like something you might just see scuttle across the roof of a Gothic church out of the corner of your eye, Joan is the antidote to not giving offence. If it exists and it might just make someone throw up in disgust, then Joan will say it. Wouldn’t you just love to do that? When the builder comes to your house to re-plaster a wall and makes a really bad job of it, wouldn’t you like to say, ‘What’s the matter, man? Did you suddenly go blind while you were doing that job or what?’ instead of what all non-Joans will say which is, ‘Oh, thanks. How much do I owe you?’

As well as being ‘lost in plot’ as it were, I am also in a lot of pain with the leg that I broke at the end of last year at the moment. So I’m pissed off and angry. Under these circumstances I can become Joan for little bits of time. So I’m keeping away from the telephone. If it’s someone who knows me well, they will understand and put up with all the ‘bad’ words, someone who doesn’t know me, doesn’t deserve it (unless they’re a moron who has pissed me off or hurt me). I’m staying indoors too. As well as being like the Arctic outside, I’m not happy about the public seeing my angry face and bad, bad, bad hair. Like Joan, I will just say what I am however vile that may be, but people don’t necessarily have to see it. So imagine a grumpy gargoyle with hair like string and a disposition not unlike the Gorgon Medusa. Charming.

And so the wretched creative process continues…

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