‘Writers speak a stench.’ – Franz Kafka
There comes a time during the creation of a novel when I feel the urge to discuss what the book is about, especially (as is currently the case) if I’m mired in problems surrounding the ending. Though I’d really rather not – I’m uncomfortable about discussing any issues I have with a piece of unfinished writing, because rambling on about something that was meant to be written can make the premise itself sound ugly (but also because I’m not the most articulate speaker on the planet) – I find it can help to unblock the old pipes and render evident a solution that seemed otherwise intractable. I’m not one of those writers who is able to keep everything close to their chest from conception until delivery.
Sometimes the poor soul (or souls… today I explained the plot of my novel to a captive – if not captivated – audience in the shape of my third year creative writing students) don’t need to say a word. The simple act of verbalising the problem I have might be enough to dislodge its solution. Those third year writers (themselves involved in trying to unpick the knotty intricacies of plot holes and narrative logic) were very helpful, and offered numerous suggestions and possibilities, some of which could turn out to be helpful. Although I did hijack their session somewhat, it was a helpful exercise for the students too and it led to a discussion of their plans for the piece of writing they’re expected to submit at the end of the year. A number of interesting offshoots appeared in relation to their own work once they’d opened up about it. It’s a little bit like magic, this conjuring of ideas from the simple act of batting words back and forth.
One word of warning though, especially when talking to non-writers, or family and friends, is that you beg a boundary be drawn before a word is uttered, born of bitter experience. Please, you might ask, please don’t just say: what a shit idea.