Today there was rain by the bucket load. I was soaked through within the two minutes it took for the bus to come up the road. And all of a sudden I got the urge to go back to my one and only novel-in-progress. It had been put to the side for the last couple of months as I took my typing hands elsewhere and essentially, I’d needed some distance from it.

It was quiet enough on the tills at work today for my brain to drift off and begin conjuring sentences. New opening sentences. And then I realised I was possibly heading for a rewrite. Again.

The tiniest scrap bits of this story idea had been in penned at different points over the last decade or so, one or two A4 pages at a time, never really more than that. I’d spend bedtimes lying awake consistently trying to figure out just how two awkward and different people come to kiss for the first time…

And then I began working in handwritten A5 notepads, penning page after page once I discovered anti-depressants and coffee shops (strangely at the same time). I got chubbier (also due to anti-depressants and coffee shops…) I soon gave up the anti-depressants. I carried on with the coffee shop writing…

About two years and three or four hundred pages later and suddenly I felt it was all getting a bit ridiculous, what with the main character having a sudden love affair with a gorgeously masculine, closeted male bisexual Scottish Hollywood-class actor after a photo shoot, who then takes him away to meet his whole family over Christmas dinner, which is also their second or third ‘date’… and I realised I was just writing out my own fantasies of being whisked away by Gerard Butler. Utterly ridiculous. Version one, scrapped. (I also stopped fancying Gerard, I don’t like the unkempt hair he’s sporting these days, but that’s a whole other matter…)

Version two thus began. It gained a title, “Edge of a Lens” which somewhat never seemed quite right to me. I decided it mustn’t veer off into the ridiculous. I wanted this to be a ‘serious’ piece (I had delusions of it becoming an ‘important’ piece… whatever that means). I plundered on, this time on a laptop. Praise be, I could edit until my heart was content. And got well past the 30,000 words mark. All before I’d ever completed a short story.

And then I did complete a short story and got feedback in regards to it from the kind souls at the Glasgow Writers’ Group. These points really stuck…
My paragraphs are too long and took too long to get to the points, of which there wasn’t enough.
And the piece seemed devoid of the humour I sometimes exhibit in, of all places, Facebook posts.
I genuinely learnt something that night, it being the first constructive criticism I’d received on a piece.

It was with those important points in mind that I pondered over “Edge of a Lens.” Why were the chapters so long with so little actually ‘happening’? Why was there so little humour?

And so now version three. The title “Life Through a Mirror” came to me as I was walking around work and walked past a mirror (who would’ve thought)… Over the last few days it clicked more and more for these reasons:
1) On a literal level the mirror in the title refers to the mirror in an SLR, the main character being a photographer…
2) The mirror is also (somehow) tied to the sexuality of the two main characters. To be homosexual is widely considered in society to be the opposite, a reversal of the accepted ‘norm’ (heterosexuality).. (mirrors, reversal, etc, etc)…
3) The main character is a re-imagining and fictionalisation of myself and my life from age 16 onwards, and in many cases writing the piece is like looking into a set of magic mirrors and jotting down what I see, or something…

And as I said all this to Nicholas on the drive home I realised I was being pretentious as anything. I’m not sure how he puts up with me when I start talking about writing.

Nevertheless, the last version of the piece should come into a lot of use, albeit shortened and tightened up. A lot. Some chapters were hitting nearly 8,000 words and were ridiculously long-winded… Shorter, snappier paragraphs all around please. Circa 3,000 word chapter targets would also be nice thanks.
For the first time in regards to creative writing I have used the word ‘targets’.

As I said on Facebook “I propose this novel may be complete, by the time I’m sixty. And dead.”

This whole thing is a learning process for me, and the idea for this novel is the only long-form piece I have ever had in mind. Working on it is like nurturing a child, it’s a life’s work and it’s never really over, and you never give up on them. And so it goes on…

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