Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Writing - Why is everything the wrong way round?

Have you noticed how the larger an organisation becomes the more upside down their activities become? What I mean is that small units tend to look after their customers and workers whereas the larger an organisation becomes the more time they spend trying to get back to looking after their customers and workers! A bit of a conundrum!


Take the NHS for instance. An organisation set up in 1947 to look after people who were unwell with the funds coming from central government and National Insurance payments. The organisation was large but the individual wards were relatively small and run as units with their own staff which included a rigid and sometimes fierce hierarchy. Now the hospitals have been amalgamated into trusts of a number of hospitals and clinics and they are working on what is called a new plan! Announced today is the 'Zero Harm' plan. If you consider the name and the reason for the NHS being in place there seems to me to be a contradiction! The concept of hospitals needing to introduce a plan to avoid harming patients is a bit of a worry.

Small is Beautiful

Similarly  working in the bank we were in teams of a dozen or so, with a team leader and a leadership structure. This was not a bad sized unit but, there is always a 'but', and the people at the bottom of the system always catch it in the neck when things go wrong. So when the crash of 2008 happened and bankers bonuses came into question it wasn't those who had thousands upon thousands of pounds in bonus who suffered the most. It was us serfs earning perhaps £1200 who on a percentage scale lost the most.

Big Schools

The Education system in which I worked for over thirty years suffered from the same need to make everything massive and unwieldy. There was a constant battle between unions, local authorities and government on class sizes. You don't have to be a genius to work out that 1 teacher to 40 kids is cheaper to run than 1 to 20. 

Cessation, my most recent project, is progressing. I have written over 40k words and just completed chapter 16. This novel is about the future of our society and needless to say my stance on the way we ordinary people in the world are neglected, permeates the pages. There are heroes and villains, dangers and triumphs but it is very much more about the relationships between the people who are striving to survive what may yet to turn out to be a 'sneaky' apocalypse. 

I am aware of the length of stories having just completed Hilary Mantel's Booker Man prize winning tome 'Wolf Hall'. This consists of almost 700 pages of story preceded by another 50 of background relationships of people and places. It seems to me that winning such prizes is achieved by weight. The heavier the book the bigger the prize! If that is the case then I have no chance. My Steele novels are a paltry 250 pages!

Having said that 'Cessation' is likely to be a little longer a positive magnum opus! I have read books that have gone on interminably not knowing when to finish written by subscribers to the '100k words makes a good book' fraternity. For me a story has a life and therefore a lifespan so padding it out to achieve a given length is inserting elements that were not part of the original concept, and therefore likely to introduce errors in continuity or even boring bits!

My message is write your story the way it is and not according to someone else's meaningless rules.

God Bless