After more than fifteen years of writing solo, I decided it was time for a change. There has never before been a collegiate community of novelists at work side by side. Aside from writing, every other trade, craft, or discipline has improved by learning collaboratively.
They say you can't learn to write.
But I did. Twenty years ago - when I had time enough to stalk and grill the likes of Seamus Heaney, Ian McEwan and later Gore Vidal. I'm still learning. Every damn day. I've been writing for twenty years now.
And I was so sick to death of writing alone this time last year, I'm ashamed to say I even gave up drinking. Then it came to me at the beginning of this year; there's no reason to do this alone in vainglorious semi-squalour! How come everyone else in the world is pretending to work together, sharing their learning, collaborating across digital platforms with heedless immodesty, but we 'serious' writers are still typing in the same underpants we were wearing in 1992?
So I spoke to a illustrious writer friend and told him I was going to write a novel in ninety days, and coach writers to do the same 'live'. He said I was mad....
So I started Kritikme. It nearly killed me. It was great.
For ninety days, I was writing my own novel at dawn, working a day job, recording the vlogs on the way to work in the car and writing the daily lessons and reading the 'hero' texts last thing at night. I was mainlining writers like Kerouac, Muriel Spark and John Fowles because for part of the course I was teaching from books written in four weeks. But it was great because my writers were, goddamn it, 'interacting' with me! And I discovered there were six natural phases to the first draft of a novel.
Now there are quite a few of us.
I canned the process and it's available drip fed daily to those who would like to learn to write a novel in ninety days. It unfolds as unwittingly as a fantastic dream, suddenly you're doing unmentionable things to people you never considered that way...
Some of our members are published authors and some are aspiring. Our members are journalists, critics, lawyers, doctors, creatives, and professional mums on maternity leave. The course is more 'reality' show than text book, like watching a plumber fix a leak rather than reading a guide book on the subject.
I wrote my novel 'live' with Kritikme.
'The mint green bathroom fixtures were right out in the open. Billy got off his lounge chair now, went into the bathroom and took a leak. The crowd went wild.' Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five.
I've had the time of my life.
So I'm still doing it. Luckily writing is something you can do every day, no matter what else you do, you just need a little method with your madness. And I've remembered why I love writing, and people. As John Coetzee observed in Disgrace 'The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest'.
A big thank you to my wonderful writers at Kritikme.