Like A Beer Garden In Motherwell

It turns out there is nothing quite like doing a chapter by chapter breakdown of your book to start a complete emotional rollercoaster. At some points I thought it was all stitching together extremely well, at others there was the feeling that nothing was going right and the whole thing had fell apart.

But at least now I have a list with each chapter and a couple of lines saying what does and doesn’t work with each. Only one of them has the words ‘delete this whole thing because it’s terrible’ written across it so it’s not that bad a score.

The first two chapters have already been rewritten and are actually now in a readable form. It’s just a matter of shining up the rest and making sure they stitch together well.

Support Your Local Author

I’m not that far up the writing career ladder but I think it’s still important that writers give support to others when the time comes. With that in mind I bring you some local news of a retired policeman from Dumfries and Galloway publishing his first children’s book.

‘Community Cop Colin: Keeping Safe’ by Martin Greenlees is published on the 28th of July and follows the story of two friends, Libby and Connor, who get separated from their Mothers whilst out shopping. The pair remember the community police officer who visited their school and told them to always think of the word ‘Uniform’. The search begins to find a safe stranger to help them become reunited with their worried Mothers.

The book is a really good way of encouraging kids to stay safe and to understand that the community police officers are there to help them.

The book can be purchased from Amazon and Waterstones.

Always Handle Live Plants With Care

Each night, if the mood takes me, I’ll sit down with a big pad of paper and my laptop and work through the current version of the book chapter by chapter to see how it’s working. The disadvantage to pressing on with any rewrite and never looking back or stopping is that some of the ideas contained in the early going have since been scrapped completely later on and now mean nothing.

There has been one instance of removing a sentence in one chapter which felt like an easy decision only to find that it means that half of the next chapter is now redundant.

It’s has shaken me a little bit. Whilst the hardest part is done and I no longer have to deal with any blank pages it does mean that I’m discovering all the bugs. Certain characters change mindset on a dime right now and it’s those sort of problems I’m trying to iron out.

Momentum is important though.

Stove Top Trouser Press

When I was in primary school there was a book club each term. A few weeks before the holidays were due to start the teacher would pass around a small catalogue of titles that they were currently selling. Due to it being a school promotion each book had about twenty or thirty percent off the retail price. You’d put a tick next to whatever you wanted to buy, go home and convince your parents to supply the money which would then be passed on during the next school day. At the start of the next term the library van would pull up outside and drop off a big box with the all the books in. There was your book (or indeed books depending on if your parents felt generous that day or not).

It was through this method that I discovered quite a few titles including the Fighting Fantasy series but there was one from that time that I actually rediscovered a few days ago stuck in a cardboard box from my house move six months ago.

I recall wanting this one as soon as I clapped eyes on it. It has a price of £3.99 on the inside cover and it must have been about £3.50 or so to me at the time. It’s a collection of some short science fiction stories alongside some excerpts from longer titles. There’s a section from War of the Worlds which was probably my first exposure to H.G Wells, there’s The Wind From The Sun by Arthur C Clarke and also How We Were Tracked By A Tripod by John Christopher. I’ve sat for a few nights now just reading over these stories and reminding myself how brilliant they are. I’m rewriting the book now trying my level best to get it somewhere near the level presented here.

Version 4.1.2

Does anybody else start a brand new, blank file when doing another rewrite? I don’t like going back into the original and just changing everything about on there. Instead I’ll use a fresh file and just cut and paste chapter by chapter. That way the progress is obvious.

I’ve yet to sit down and go through the latest draft bit by bit and work out what’s staying and what is hitting the road. My last blog entry detailed how I’d rewritten the first chapter. I then followed up with the second one being polished up a little. I don’t think I can go much further without sitting down with my laptop, pad and pen and then working out what each part is supposed to do and how well it actually does it. Once that’s done I can crack on with this (hopefully much easier) rewrite. After that I think it may actually be readable to the outside world.

You Shouldn’t Have To Jump For Joy

Remember a little while ago how I was talking about needing to change my alien character from a warrior to a refugee? Well it involved doing a ground up rewrite of the start of the book. So now, because it makes me feel like I’ve done something today instead of sitting watching The Umbrella Academy, I’ll give you the old intro followed by the new one. Any feedback at this stage is gratefully received.

The Old One…

Never leave the legion.

As control was lost and system readouts began to fade from the central command console those words set themselves to repeat in Pilot’s head. He and everybody else around him had always been told that you flew alongside all the others until either victory had been achieved or death had come for you. You did not leave the legion.

Pilot had lined up alongside near a thousand others in a battle formation. The gargantuan battlecruisers of the enemy had floated into view and the command had come through to remain firm. A huge ray had burst out, carved its way through the black space and torn through half of the ships positioned to Pilot’s side. For the first time in his entire life Pilot had felt what he had been told was fear. As a vast section of other ships had burnt out and fell from view he had taken the opportunity to flee. He had no idea where he was going just as long as it was far away from this battle.

He hadn’t got too far until the garbled messages from his command unit began. He’d only got slightly further when they’d cut his engine and life support. If the enemy didn’t kill you then they’d make sure they did the job themselves. He clicked on every single part of the panel in front of him with his white, plated fingers but nothing was operational. He was falling though space at a dizzying rate, revolving, twisting and aimless until he felt the entire ship sink in a constant direction.

He was falling rapidly towards an unknown planet. Checking the viewfinder only gave a blurred image of various shades of blue and green merging together rapidly. The smooth, shining walls on the inside of the craft began to glow with the intense heat of entering this atmosphere. Parts of the ship began to smoke and fizzle. Pilot gripped into the flight controls to ready himself as he tried to get a better view of outside.

There seemed to be only one sun here, it was currently moving towards the other side of the planet. There were vast stretches of blue with great carved out sections of what he assumed was land. Pilot thought of himself as quite fortunate, the chances of him hitting liquid were good. What he didn’t know was if it was going to be shallow or even poisonous yet.   

He was close enough now to see small dots of light gathered in small bundles across the land. His path led straight towards a small chunk of land separate from the rest. As his descent gained pace he could see that he’d be just about avoiding the larger collections instead nearly hitting one of the much smaller ones. He gripped tighter to the steering column, as he did so his skin began to crack. Even before impact it seemed his body might not make it. An almost deafening whistling noise echoes around the cockpit as the air rushed past the out shell. Pilot closed his eyes and wished he’d just stayed home instead of counting his last moments before careering into the surface of some distant planet.

With a deep thud the ship plunged through the liquid surface. Pilot was flung headlong across the entire cockpit, landing in a heap at the other side. The intense heat was quickly replaced by angry bubbles that hissed along the hull. The descent slowed as the ship floated down onto the surface before bobbing to a gentle stop at the bottom.

Pilot picked himself up. One of his arms had shattered almost completely in the crash landing. It was still on the floor on the other side of the ship twisting and moving along the floor before finally curling up. Pilot wondered if he would be able to find another body on this planet, perhaps one more suitable for the environment he found himself in.

Just as he was about to enjoy still being alive for now he heard the first drips of liquid seep through the front viewfinder.

And now the new one.

The first missiles came down after the third sun had set. The glass towers were the first to fall as once great symbols of the home world came raining down to the ground below. Both of the moons had been smothered in the thick, grey smoke that now spiralled into the air. The screams of those crushed underneath the piles of rubble were near ear piercing now. There had been no warning of such an attack, no advanced word from the Elders that this would be the fate of so many. For the first time in many memories, they had been directly attacked and with great, relentless force.

Pilot was terrified.

The ground below his feet shook with the impact of another missile. They were landing all around him, stopping for a few seconds and then using their built-in drill heads to burrow further into the dirt. The whirring noises joined together in an orchestra of destruction. As the smaller buildings began to crumple Pilot thought of his duty. He was supposed to find the enemy and make sure they were taken without raising suspicion. This had served them well for centuries but now, as the destroyers came fully into view over the horizon, it would be far too late. Stepping in front of any of them now would result in a very instant death.

So Pilot ran.

His large frame clumped along the bright blue stone pathways through the city. He could now feel the heat on the back of his stone neck. A short distance side he saw another like him who had taken a smaller body. The blue stones were moving around the surface of their skin at speed, trying to keep the new vessel regulated in the panic. Another missile came hurtling from above directly on top of them. They vanished into a cloud of dust and smoke. Pilot accelerated onwards towards the fields. His ship may not be ready, it may have still needed time to align but he needed it now. He needed to get off the home world.

Within minutes he was running through the fields and twisting through right and left turns to get to his sector. Turning his last sharp bend he found in front of him, still with roots in the ground, his ship. It’s sleek, bright white and shell like structure half poked out from the ground. It pulsed and throbbed to itself as the drive fed off the nutrients in the soil. Pilot placed his bone like hands on the smooth surface and the layers began to peel away to reveal the opening.

More bombs thundered down, closer now.

Before Pilot could enter his ship he heard a voice calling him. Even over the booming weapons it still sounded instantly familiar. The Elder had caught him. She stood not far from Pilot wearing the full ceremonial pearl white robe that was now reflecting images of the fires raging around them. The staff, passed down through generations of their people and gnarled more and more with each user, was clutched firmly in her right hand.

“You must stay” she rasped.

Pilot flung himself into the cockpit before the layers sealed again. Pounding his fist onto the control panel charged the drive. He hoped it would take off, he prayed to every deity he had left behind that the ship would lift. The sound of a metal staff being hammered across the hull of his ship from outside rang through the cockpit. It was like being inside a bell.

Then he felt the lift. The drive charged some more as the ship slowly ripped itself away from the field. One by one the roots tethering his craft snapped, each making a metallic popping noise as they did so. The viewfinder opened, giving him an image of outside. The hills in the distance were ablaze with a red mist. The last clank on the hull reverberated as the final root popped. The valleys he played in as a child were swallowed by the dark mists. The towers were now tiny smouldering specks. Pilot gripped onto the controls tightly as he gained altitude, breaking through the cloudy night sky and onwards into the cold space above.

This distance would not do, simply floating around in this system would mean he would be hunted down as sure as the three suns rose every day. The ship had managed lift off but the question in Pilot’s mind had been if it would engage hyperdrive. His hand floated over the console poised for the right moment. As he counted down the timing in his head the ship jolted to one side violently. Looking back he could see that they had located him and were not about to let him leave easily. Another round of cannon fire headed his way, crackling off the hull. The ship started to rotate on its axis, forcing Pilot to stumble backwards and land on the floor. There was no time for any other consideration other than hitting the button and hoping. Pilot hauled himself forwards again, holding out one arm and just about managing to force his huge fist down onto the panel. More cannon fire thumped the ship as the drive whirred into action. Time seemed to accelerate as the screeching noise grew louder and louder until Pilot had to cover his ears with his palms. Then, with an almighty boom, the ship bolted through the warp and was flung into a dark unknown.

Summer Is Coming

This has been the first rainy afternoon in a long while. Whilst our part of Scotland may not have been bathed in the heat of summer just yet it has at least been dry. Walking around the village during the one walk outside the house each day whilst lockdown is in effect has been a rather pleasant distraction. Today however both the dog and I were very wet when we made it home this afternoon.

It has meant a little bit more writing. There’s a chapter at the end that I’m having to rework completely as changes in the previous few chapters have rendered the older version obsolete. Some of the dialogue can be transferred over but not a lot. The rather good new is that this is the penultimate chapter of the entire book so with a little bit of an extra push over the next few days we should be done with this rewrite. I have a feeling that this will be a massive weight off my shoulders as one of the main things I wanted to get done during all of this pandemic was to finish this.

After that it’s a case of going through each chapter and seeing if it just needs polished or needs a further rewrite again. For the most part though this is slowly becoming something readable to the outside world and for that I’m very glad. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been writing this for the last three years and it started as one sentence in a notebook.

Storm Chasing

Whilst going through the last stages of this rewrite I’ve noticed a shift in a particular character has appeared almost out of nowhere. The decision will certainly have to be made soon as to if I carry on with this and be forced to alter everything that change affects or try and force it back to the original plan and limit the damage.

I’d image this is something all writers come across, let me explain the exact details.

In the very first plans of the book my alien being had landed on Earth after being separated from his cohorts in the skies above. He was part of a squadron who had been bombing other planets, rendering once glorious landscapes into flames and dust. When he hit Earth he found himself alone and without a clue of what to do. He was supposed to be a warrior without a war to fight and a large part of his story was him learning about this whilst trying to get back home. He was an aggressor but it was done only because that was his usual mode of operation and not because Earth had any particular plus points for his race. As a result of this his character was eerie, unpredictable and certainly not to be trusted.

The chapters I’ve written about planets burning are never really pinned as to who is on what side. As I’ve carried on I’ve noticed that I made this alien being really confused about life on Earth and how he goes about not being identified. It’s then led to another ‘what if’ idea.

What if, rather than him being part of this all dominating army, he was a victim of them instead? He’s not a warrior, he’s a refugee. This change has occurred somewhat naturally and has made him more interesting to write and far more three dimensional. He’s little bit more sympathetic as well.

The second option would involve a lot more work as it means rewiring the end few chapters a fair bit and possibly adding a few more section so his background is made a lot clearer but it’s probably going to be better in the long run.

Dear Railway Neighbour

It was experiment time.

My wife is a nurse so she’s been going to work during all of the Coronavirus pandemic happenings. This means that I’m at home as much as possible with our son, the dog and the cat. Without any kind of routine in place it can mean that both the humans in the house end up watching Youtube all day. In order to combat this we ended up doing a lot of work for our joint video games blog site. It’s been a lot of fun so far with us reviewing games and talking about what we’re playing during the lockdown. It has taken away from the book writing time though and I thought I’d try to get that sorted tonight.

After dinner I thought I’d sit and blast through for just one hour between 8 and 9.I didn’t set a word count or say I was going to do ‘X chapter’. I just started editing and rewriting.

I got a fair piece of it done this way and it might be good to do this going forwards if I don’t get a chance to sit and write all day.

Is this something anybody else has tried?