BHASVIC creative writing students have been setting Mick some really interesting questions throughout their Adopt an Author experience. This week they’re discussing his use of techniques and symbolism.
Q. Do you think of techniques or symbolism in advance of writing?
According to the hippie/organic creative process, as outlined above, clearly anything so self-conscious wouldn’t work, but I suppose there must be plenty of instances when I made overtly technical decisions quite early on. I’m fond of saying that when I did a Creative Writing course myself I knew how to come up with ideas and get a first draft down, but was baffled when some of the other students started talking about editorial work and revising the text. This had never really occurred to me. So I now talk about writing ‘creatively’, then going back and looking at it ‘critically’. I can also see that often when I’m writing I’m bound to be making those critical (ie technical) decisions even when I’m writing the first draft … eg: I can’t use that word because I used it to start the last sentence … that word’s too fancy / too plain. So the truth is that at any point in the whole process, from having the idea to doing the hundredth rewrite, as a writer you’re always hopping back and forth and wondering about every element in the book as it is formed and some of those thoughts will be to do with technique. But it feels like most of those ideas occur to me as I’m doing the writing.I once did a talk to a grammar school in Nottingham. There must have been a couple of hundred boys all sitting in this lecture theatre along with what felt like half the school’s members of staff. I read from the book and talked a little about how I came to write it, then had a short Q+A. Towards the end one student raised his hand and asked if I could talk a little about the animal imagery in the novel and what it stood for. I was feeling pretty relaxed by this point and said rather flippantly that, as far as I knew, there wasn’t any animal imagery in the book at all. As I was talking I noticed one of the teachers dropping his head into his hands. I later heard how the whole year had been set an essay question on animal imagery in my novel. Who knows, perhaps I did mean for different animals to represent all kinds of different things throughout the novel, but I don’t remember doing it.