Saturday, 21 August 2010

From a work in progress...

On Wednesday, I became a fully fledged member of the Northampton SF Writers Group, as run by the esteemed Ian's Watson and Whates.

I've joined the group because I realise I need a helping hand (or shove, depending on your politeness level) to get cracking with the writing again. I need the interaction, I need to hear other people talk about writing, I need to listen to people discuss the craft (it's the same reason I joined Fiction Factory, which was great for me, but I did miss the face-to-face).

Ian Whates told me that his imprint is putting together something for the group and asked me if I'd like to contribute. I agreed and then discovered this had been planned for some time and Ian would need the finished story by the end of August. In 14 days, in other words. Scary stuff, especially since I note everything to death and would take 14 days just to normally figure out what the lead characters name was going to be. The only stipulation was that the story had to be about/set in Northamptonshire.

As I drove home, I was thinking of something Matthew had said to me the day before - he asked if I could write a "Matthew & Sheepy" adventure about train chasing. That tied up with a bridge, in Kettering, that used to have graffiti'ed on it "Look Behind You" and, by the time I got home, I'd got the bare bones of a story. I started writing it yesterday and, though I think it's going very long, I'm starting to enjoy what I'm doing (I re-wrote the first paragraph four times and still think it's the biggest pile of cack I've ever created - though Alison & Matthew seemed to like it).

And so I thought about what this blog is supposed to be - about my writing. And I thought about what I was doing now - writing. So here is a small section (first draft, so excuse all errors), which is written in present tense (unlike the rest of the piece) and is supposed to be breathless. I hope I've succeeded.

Neil is a key character, though you don't know why yet. The narrator is called Adam and this is him, thinking back to 1983 from the vantage point of the present day.

I was fourteen years old, I lived with my Mum in a little terraced house and I’d just started a school where I knew no-one. I’d never really drunk before, I’d only kissed four girls and I was desperate to feel a bit of tit. I loved “Star Wars” and Blondie and American detective shows, but I liked to think that I was fairly worldly. I say liked because I realised, after that first race, that I loved train chasing too. It was stupid, absolutely no doubt about it and as I discovered over time, not all of the drivers would sound their horns even if it was obvious they’d seen you.

On that first occasion, Neil came running off the platform, grabbed his bike and seemed to turn it even as he was getting on it. He looked at me, opened his mouth but the train started to move and I knew what he’d planned to say. Instead, I quickly turned my bike and we took off across the access road, even as the train noisily eased itself into activity. Up the slight hill, into the alley, ducking to avoid the low branches. The train moving now, the wheels creaking and squealing. The horn sounds once, quickly, as if the driver can perhaps see what we’re doing. Neil is pedalling fast, off his saddle now, leaning forward over the handlebars. I stand on my pedals too, my hands finding the lower curves of the handlebars, fingers nowhere near the brake levers. The train is moving, gaining speed and I can see it in flashes through the bushes where the growth is thinnest. The alley is on a slight incline, but I don’t seem to feel it, keeping up with Neil easily, though it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden this fast.

“Come on,” he yells over his shoulder, “we’ve got him.”

I lean over the handlebars, pumping at the pedals, giving them everything I’ve got. I risk a sideways glance at the train and it seems to be behind us, but I know that we haven’t got long – I don’t know anything about trains except that they’re fast, much faster than two kids on a pair of Raleighs.

I look forward and see the square of light that heralds the Headlands. We’re really moving now and it occurs to me that if anyone steps into the alley, we’re all in trouble. But nobody does and we burst out of the alley and bank right and I hope that the tarmac isn’t greasy and it isn’t and the tyres grip the road and then we’re on the bridge. I hear the clatter as Neil’s Grifter hits the metal work and, though I’m more careful about putting down the racer, I’m not too far behind him.

Neil stands right above the line, waving his arm high and wide. When I reach his side and start waving too, the train is about a hundred yards away. The driver looks up, sees us and seems to almost nod his head as if in acknowledgement of our success. He waves and Neil yells “Sound the horn”, though it’s obvious the driver can’t hear us.
But the horn does sound, a hearty two-tone that makes me jump and then Neil and I are laughing and suddenly gasping for breath and leaning on the bridge.

“That’s what train chasing is,” he says.

“That was fucking brilliant.”