Sunday, December 10, 2006

Books, plays, music - heaven

Did I do Nanowrimo, asks Optimistic Reader? Yes I did. Did I approach it in a calm, rational manner, neatly completing my 1663 words per day, every day, in order to calmly reach the target of 50,000 words in a month? Or did I flounder about, thinking my carefully planned out story actually stank to high heaven, managing to get to day 18 with 6,258 words and a finely honed sense of desperation, before finally kicking my bum into gear and pulling 43,920 words out in 12 days?

The answer is, I produced just over 50,000 words during the month of November, hitting the target with about 3 hours remaining; most of those words are tosh, but then, 90% of the first draft of anything is junk, and at least this way, I have more words at the end of November than I did at the beginning. Some of the story is worth keeping, mainly the bit where a brand new character turned up at a party unexpectedly and began to seduce the lead female - she fell for him, too, the fool, but thank goodness she did because that's when the story finally came to life.

Also thanks to Optimistic Reader (she's too good at leading me astray!) I had a play around at Gender Genie - on the whole, I write fiction like a woman (surprise, surprise) - most of the fictional passages I tested came out as having been written by a female. But I tested a short story too, one which I'd deliberately written trying to be ambiguous, and that produced a "written by a male" result. Interesting.

Since finishing Nano, I've gone on a reading binge and am totally besotted with Ian McEwan. I read Atonement when it first came out and loved it, but in the last 10 days I've read Saturday, Enduring Love, and Amsterdam, and this afternoon bought The Innocent. I'm deliberately avoiding Child In Time at the moment, although I think I will have to read it eventually. I remember reading First Love, Last Rites when it first came out, and finding it too disturbing, so avoided his stuff after that, yet now cannot get enough of it, that combination of dread and compulsion, knowing that awful things are around the corner but sucked into page turning and turning and turning, late into the night. I wonder what this says about me as a reader; whether tastes darken with age, or you become more willing to read about dark experiences when you've had a few of those brushes with life yourself. Whatever it is, I find him an utterly compelling writer.

Meanwhile, out in the real world, I went to London yesterday for another New Producers Alliance "9 point producer training" workshop, this time all about the market - where do you want your film to be seen and how do you get it there? A very entertaining and informative panel of sales agents and publicists went through their roles and gave out lots of good advice. A really good session.

Then went to see "Frost/Nixon" at the Gielgud Theatre with Liz - transferred from the Donmar, directed by Michael Grandage and written by Peter Morgan, this is the story of David Frost (played by Michael Sheen) resurrecting his career with his post-Watergate interviews with Richard Nixon (played by Frank Langella). It's a fabulous play that really captures that time, and both Sheen and Langella are great. Michael Sheen in particular has an uncanny ability with his voice to become someone else entirely - we chatted to him afterwards, and his natural Welsh accent comes as quite a surprise after hearing him catch every cadence of Frost's delivery, never mind pulling off a perfect Blair in "The Queen". Not only is he an amazingly talented actor, he's very sweet and very cute.

So, that means I've seen all 3 of the plays nominated for the Evening Standard Award for Best Play - Frost/Nixon, Seafarer, and Rock n Roll - Rock n Roll won, with Rufus Sewell beating Michael Sheen and Kevin Spacey to the Best Actor award as well. I would have hated to have to make that decision, because although I agree with the Best Play being Rock n Roll, I'd be hard pressed to choose between one of those three actors; however, if forced, much as I love Rufus Sewell and his splendidly dirty laugh, Kevin Spacey would have the edge for his breath-taking performance in Moon for the Misbegotten. Marianne Elliot deservedly won Best Director for Pillars of the Community, which I saw at The National Theatre last year and loved, especially the set design, which had the set being peeled away as Bernick's deceptions were themselves revealed.

This afternoon, zipped over to Sheffield to see a Music in the Round presentation, Ensemble 360 and Sam West performing Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale. It was part of a "Music in the Community" day at the Crucible Theatre, lots of activities going on and hoardes of children around. The concert itself began with Sam doing an amusing and informative introduction to the piece, no doubt endearing himself to the many kids in the audience by explaining he was miked because he had a cold, and saying "it's not that I don't want to talk to you, its just that I'm full of snot". I'm always amused by the way certain words are guaranteed to make children giggle - snot, bum, willy - I'm sure there are many more. As for the actual concert - Stravinsky is a bit too modern for me, although the musicians were fab; it's not an easy piece, and not an obvious one to choose for a family concert. However, Sam did a fantastic job of conveying the various characters in the story - Joseph the soldier, the devil, the king, the princess, the narrator - with a simple gesture he conjures up people and objects, with a change of voice he switches from one character to another to make a conversation come alive. A virtuoso performance.

And now I have to get my McEwan fix for the day.


Blogger Optimistic_Reader said...

I can't have led you astray that much, otherwise you wouldn't have written over 50,000 words! Well done!

11:51 am  
Blogger Stacie said...

Congrats on finishing your goal! :)

6:46 pm  
Blogger oneslackmartian said...

whoo hoo! on the nanowrimo thing.

even if it's a first draft, ya still are 50K better off . . . .

4:34 am  

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