What connects my title topics to creative writing?
As a teenager I was a keen cyclist and would be content to go on a ride alone, or with my best friend. Since my childhood I’ve valued solitude as much as companionship. While I spent time alone, away from regular surroundings my mind was free. The time to let my thoughts roam provided me with an unequalled exhilaration.
Move forward fifty years. My trusty steed of recent times has been a re-cycled mountain bike I bought in a charity shop a couple of years ago. Function ruled over appearance, but I gave it a re-spray for good measure (from red/blue to black). During the spring as I pedalled to work I recalled how I felt all those years ago when cycling far from my usual haunts.
In the summer of this year I treated myself to a new road-racer. I’ll admit the idea behind the purchase was a two-pronged attack.
I yearned for the sensation of freedom a long cycle ride gave me, but I also wanted a regular exercise to help shift a few unwanted pounds. A change of diet was underway, but to achieve a lasting result takes more than extra fruit and less chocolate.
How have things shaped up?
Since July I’ve re-discovered the joy of cycling solo. Not many folk want to join a person who sets off at six o’clock in the morning for a twenty-mile ride, but the other benefits add to my contentment. The two bonuses are worlds apart.
I’ve lost 25lbs which leaves me at a personally acceptable 10st 12lbs (152lbs). For perspective, I’m 5ft 8ins tall.
On each ride I rehash and mentally rebuild one or two scenes or sequences from my latest work in progress. I replay a passage often enough to recall it clearly when I return to my keyboard.
In business terminology I’ve found a win-win situation re: cycling, and recycling.
How does recycling work as a creative writer?
A good writer will not throw out an idea, but store it to be retrieved at a later date. It might be a character profile, a sentence, a paragraph, an opening line, a title, or the main points of a story which isn’t gelling as required. Whatever the aforementioned item might be, it can be brought back to life at any time.
When a writer creates an article for a magazine or newspaper, the creative material is capable of being used with another magazine, thus increasing earnings from the same research. The effort required after the initial article is in the rehashing of the words as the ‘piece’ is prepared for recycling.
Do I have a favourite way of recycling a story?
Yes. It took me many attempts at reviving certain stories before a simple solution hit home. In many hours of reading text books and other people’s work I saw how a tale could be affected by the point of view.
1. How the story is told might be the difference between a good story, and a great story.
2. Whoever tells the story has a crucial bearing on how it comes across to the reader.
A story told in first person creates a ‘me and you’ intimacy between character and reader.
The intimacy is intensified if the narrator is the main character and creates a personal introduction early. Empathy between reader and narrator evolves rapidly.
What’s my favourite recycling project?
A Life of Choice is without doubt my best example of recycling a writing project. The story is loosely based on my personal experiences during military service, and has undergone more recycling than water in a space station.
My career in khaki ended in 1992, but the intention to tell the story occured before I handed in my uniform. The urge to relive it through writing was strong. Unfortunately, what wasn’t as strong was the requisite writing skills. Undaunted, I put together hundreds of passages and snippets of long-remembered conversations.
In 1996 my working title was ‘1001 Short, War Stories’.**
I had no knowledge of point of view, back-story, info-dumping, formatting, or … well, you get the idea.
I had no serious intention of producing a tale for anybody other than me and my family. As it happens, neither my wife, nor our son (now 33), enjoy reading fiction.
How have I brought cycling and recycling together with my favourite project?
As I write about a particular time period from my past I listen to music of the era. I’ve found inspiration from a single track, and on occasion a ‘sound’ like: The Sound of Philadelphia, the New Romantics, Synthesisers, the 80’s. The idea works when at my keyboard, but is equally useful when on the road.
Prior to my ride each morning I get into my cycling outfit, but before setting off, I listen to a single piece of music from a time period on which I’m working. The most recently heard music is rememberd naturally.
Many people think of recycling as a task. They consider what they might be able to recycle, and a lot of materials are simply discarded, because it’s easier. Laziness is a human trait.
Writers are a breed apart in a lot of ways, and recycling should be a major ingredient of our lives – at least with regard to our literary intentions. We tend not to give up, and those who know their craft will hold onto written material which another person might consider meaningless.
As always, any comments are welcome, and I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and reasoning.
The final two parts of the tale will be published in the spring and summer of 2017 respectively.
**1,001 Short War Stories has never been more than my earliest attempts at creative writing. I recently produced the cover seen above to support this post.