I've decided to apply to the Scottish Arts Council for a writer's bursary. What this is, is a grant of anywhere between £1,000 and £15,000 to support writers, to contribute to the overall artistic merit of Scotland by providing the kind of support that allows authors to write full-time.
This is a good thing, of course, except that the awards almost always go to literary writers - not genre science fiction authors. I don't know this for a fact, and I'll never know if I don't apply, so I might as well apply.
I got thinking about this the other day when I read a post on the TTA message boards by an author called Laura Hird, and the name rang a bell. She's an Edinburgh author, and judging by things she mentions in her (linked to) web page, I understand she's supporting herself, to some extent, via one of these grants. I get the impression she's very much of a mainstream writer.
I know of two other authors who received these grants who are friends of friends. Alisdair Gray is one, Alex Benzie is the other - he's te author of a very well-received Scottish historical novel called This Year's Midnight.
Some people I've met are a bit uncomfortable with the idea that genre authors might find it harder to get such frequently desperately necessary financial support. Funnily enough, even though it might turn out to be to my detriment, I don't have so much of a problem, simply because the grants make sense if you take them as what they are: a lifeline to people writing what is, by some consensus, work of real literary value - which isn't the same thing as commercial value. Genre writers therefore would tend to get left out in the cold since they're seen as purely commercial by nature. Which is, of course, a vast oversimplification, but maybe it's better to draw a line in the sand than not to draw a line at all, and end up with a situation where nobody gets this kind of help.
I've finished the first section of the next book - about 12k. It involves movement between alternate realities, and I've spent a good few days not so much writing as trying to figure out exactly what kind of approach I want to take. I'm aiming for something that feels a lot more like Zelazny than the stuff I've previously written. One approach I'm taking - and I know some people I know will have a problem with this - is to not be in the least specific about how people move between the worlds. So that if there's an artifact that allows this to happen, to not describe it.
The reason for this is - I'm hoping - to create a strong sense of mystery. There are times when I enjoy hard sf, solid nuts and bolts stuff, but there's a lot to be said for things not necessarily being clearly spelled out. It's hard to get into words exactly what I'm working on in my head, and that's one reason my writing's been gummed up for the past couple of days. I'm also trying to use a simpler prose style, something very clear and lucid.