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Ten Thousand Hours, "Undertoads" and Militant Factions

Updated: Jan 1

Recently I’ve been reworking a long short story (if that makes sense) about an Englishman who becomes a hermit in an abandoned Australian mining town. My aim was to get the length down from 10,000 words to around 8,000, but rather than hack long sections away I decided instead to cut extraneous words (like “the”) wherever possible.

Using this brutalist approach I’ve managed to cut almost two thousand words from the story, and it seems much stronger for it; the style has been pared to the bone to match the story and scenery. I wonder if some of my other stories could benefit from this militant approach.

I’ve also had yet another go at a weird memoir-type piece about a trip round Europe twenty years ago. “Beware the undertoad” is about the tricks that memory can play; the lies that cameras can tell; about loss, love and literature; and how I might have been partly the inspiration for Mike Leigh’s film, “Naked”.

Like so much of my stuff, “undertoad” is hard to classify and will probably be even harder to place anywhere, which is why I’m now contemplating a collection of short stories and non-fiction all mixed together under the title “Militant Factions”.

Reading through my recent output – “emptiness”, “the man who buried himself”, undertoad revisited – I think I’m finally developing my own distinctive “voice”; though quite different from each other, all seem now to possess similar characteristics, so much so that I almost know what’s coming next – I just hope the same isn’t true for the reader. Oh well – better late than never…

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