Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Pristine Keyboards and Subtle Fireworks

I mention in the post below that the business of being a writer involves, first and foremost, learning to make compromises with yourself. And despite the fact that I am, as all three regular readers will be aware, now an ex-writer, I’m finding it hard to kick the compromising habit. I’m also finding it very difficult to stop thinking about the book I was planning to write over the next year or so. As a compromise, I’m telling myself that instead of obsessing about one book in particular, I’m going to do a bit of noodling about writing and / or reading in general, to see if I can’t figure out where I’ve been going wrong all these years.
  First up, the pristine state of my keyboard. I get a new PC every three or four years, and it’s rare that I have to upgrade the keyboard between times. I’m wondering if that’s where I’m going wrong.
  I ‘learned’ to type years ago, and while I can touch-type, my error-rate is pretty high – I don’t know what my wpm is, but it’s probably around 30 words per minute. Now, the trouble with touch-typing is it’s exactly that – touch typing. You caress the keys, you persuade and fondle and nudge … in effect, you seduce the keyboard into giving up its goodies one word at a time.
  Which is all very good and well if you’re writing romantic fiction, I guess. But crime fiction? Man, you should be BASHING those keys, bam-bam-BAM!!! Here’s the GUY with the GUN and BANG-BANG, KISS-KISS!!! A quiet bit, THEN BAM-BANG-BASH-BOOM!!! Then another quiet bit, THEN WOP-BOP-A-LOO-BOP-A-WOP-BANG-BOOM!!!
  Now, I’m not advocating caps and a picket fence of exclamation marks. What I’m suggesting is that the words should come off like they’ve been punched into the page by someone who loves words and hates paper. Or, as I suggest below vis-à-vis James Ellroy, like they’ve been machine-gunned into a tombstone. When I read, I want to be ducking under ricochets and copping splinters and coughing up dust. I want the sky lit by tracer and Very lights exploding overhead and the ground underneath shaking from the intensity of the barrage.
  Me, I’m too subtle when I write – or, worse, I aim for subtle and end up stuck in the middle of No Man’s Land during a ceasefire, with everyone going, “Okay, but when’s the fireworks start?” Because everyone likes a good fireworks show. And ‘fireworks’ and ‘subtle’ are pretty much mutually exclusive.
  So – that’s the first thing to consider: how to achieve subtle fireworks, and in the process need to buy a new keyboard every six months or so.
  All suggestions will be gratefully accepted …