A Day In The Life Of An Easily Distracted Writer

9.00am: Yay, writing day*, my favourite day of the week.

9.15am: Put load of washing on. Almost out of shirts.

9.30am: Check emails, Twitter – in other words, do those things I keep telling myself I won’t do until I have written my first 1000 words of the day. Still, pleased to see reply from Sydney Padua responding to my previous humorous sally to her re Charles Babbage. Unwisely, devote time to thinking of a yet more humorous riposte. Check Facebook page for Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction. Only two weeks to go!

10.00am: So. Last week, I outlined the final eight chapters of my novel. Now to commence the actual writing, starting with Chapter 17. It’s a new beginning of sorts, with my protagonist and his comrades admitting defeat and moving on, leaving shattered hopes and shattered lives behind. (Never let me write a blurb.)

10.15am: Oh, so that’s what “bounding main” means. Wikipedia rocks!

10.20am: Close down, abjure, put behind me all distracting technologies.

10.30am: Check mail (the physical, in-a-letterbox kind). Nothing.

11.00am: Pleased with how this is going. Stretching out in long passage of descriptive prose.

11.30am: Check mail. Big moment! My contributor’s copy of The Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories has arrived. Cool! It’s a large book. Skim introduction by Paula Morris – looks good. Check contributor’s note. The Walt Whitman-like epic I provided has been trimmed down a bit, producing interesting floaty effect. Still, cool! Set aside to be read later (two books for review to read first).

12.25am: 850 words written. Check Twitter. Yes, I know that’s not 1000 words, but I have reached the end of a scene. Surely that counts for something.

12.30am: It starts hailing. Bad weather from the south, as foreshadowed by Art And My Life, has arrived. Should have hung washing out earlier. Make tentative start on next scene.

1.00pm: Hail has cleared. Time to hang out washing, then have lunch.

1.10pm: Outside conditions surprisingly pleasant. Discuss plot of novel with cat.

1.30pm: Arrive back inside singing theme from Teletubbies: “Tinky Winky, Dipsy, La La, Po”. Have had idea for the blog post I should have written last night.

1.50pm: Must remember to eat lunch when actually ready. Now cold.

2.15pm: 90 minutes till son returns from school. Time to get on with it.

2.35pm: Megan Fox.

2.40pm: Coffee.

2.45pm: Making good progress. Hard to write a dialogue-heavy scene, this far into the novel, in a way that keeps it fresh. Though both the medium and the tone are different, Buffy the Vampire Slayer does this very, very well. Two key principles I have learned from looking at how dialogue is handled in Buffy: serious dialogue can still have a humorous edge, and let the least trustworthy character in the scene be the most truthful. Only problem is, neither of these apply to what I am writing. Cursed mimesis!

3.25pm: 1500 word mark passed. Had been hoping to write 2000 today. Do have some inkling of why I fell short.

3.40pm: Reached end of the second scene. Total of 1777 words today. Will gnaw on thoughts of next scene over next few days. I know what the fourth and final scene of the chapter is, but right now, have no detailed idea of what will happen in the third scene. I know what emotional tone I want it to have, however. Time for backups.

3.50pm: Front door opens: son arriving home from school. Time to find out how his day was, get him fed, check if he has homework, check the washing (and, OK, fair point, put out the rest of the socks), publish this blog post, reply to emails, and cook dinner.

*There are other days on which I write, but Thursdays are the one day of the week I dedicate to writing. Yes, you heard me. Dedicate!

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

In the late 1960s, when I first became interested in science fiction, I came across frequent references to the “ABC of science fiction”: Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. Of the three, I never had much time for Bradbury’s brand of ornate nostalgia, but in my late teens and early twenties, I devoured many novels and short stories by both Asimov and Clarke.

These days, I find Asimov hard going, but I can still re-read Arthur C. Clarke’s early fiction with great pleasure. Clarke is often thought of as a hard SF writer, and indeed that is a strong component of his work; but unlike Hal Clement, Clarke’s work makes room for both the rational and the transcendent. My favourites among his books are the early novels Against the Fall of Night/The City and the Stars and Childhood’s End, and his first short story collection, Expedition to Earth.

In these books, his writing is at its most flexible and affecting. These novels and stories are full of regret for worlds and people lost, and wonder at what is to come: if the best of Bradbury and Clement had been blended together and then filtered through a distinctively English sensibility – a sensibility no less attuned than J.G. Ballard’s to the dying of the light of Empire – these books are what might have resulted.

For these books, for his later peaks – 2001 and Rendezvous with Rama – and for his continuing engagement with the world, I will miss Arthur C. Clarke.

(You can also read a eulogy for Arthur C. Clarke by The Ninth Hermit, which features a fine picture of the man himself.)