The First (Metaphorical) Baby To Die

The third rewrite (or rather the first proper one as the last one seemed to have boiled down to just getting chapters in the right order and cutting some of the ones that just didn’t go anywhere) has begun in full. I would have got it underway last Monday but it was my birthday so other things came to pass.

With this has come the first major ‘baby to die’ situation. Up until now I’ve always had the young girl go missing down a beach, being dragged into the sea waters by an alien creature. It made sense because that’s where the ship has crash landed and I loved the idea of a ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’ vibe.

The problem was actually getting my character there in the first place. She certainly leaves her house with her Mother telling her to get back as quickly as possible. She ends up meeting the shopkeeper who has something of an alien parasite in him and he convinces her to walk by the beach on the way home. This means she can get swallowed up and ‘kidnapped’ in time.

But it’s really awkward and clunky and less of a masterplan and more of hitting and hoping. It also means that in one chapter I go from the girl being in her house, to walking down the street, to the shop and then to the beach. It’s way too much and gets really dull.

Therefore I just decided she can still be taken by an alien presence in the actual shop itself. This previously human shopkeeper suddenly turns into something really not human and we go from there. Having just finished that chapter it does read much better and doesn’t quite feel as long and drawn out. It does however mean lobbing off entire sections of the later story which revolve around the beach location in a search for clues etc.

It’s something I’ll resolve once I get there.

Twice The Amount Of Stars Than Usual.

It’s March 4th then. Two years to the day since I started to sit down and write an opening chapter about devil trees and a strange taxi journey through small town Scotland. Apart from a gap between September 2017 and March last year it’s been the thing that has pretty much taken up most of the time writing. It’s taken this long to get something of a second draft up and running.

As I said in my last blog entry I wanted to get a couple of other loose ends out of the way before I started another rewrite. I’m glad that I’ve managed to do both.

If you’re into video games then I’ve started doing a podcast with my son in which we sit in our kitchen and spend half an hour chatting about them. We’ve tried to keep each episode below 45 minutes just to keep them and it’s usually around playing some older titles and him smashing my rose tinted view of them. We’re two episodes in and the results are here. You can hear Kyle being really enthusiastic and me sounding like an old man in comparison.

I also write about wrestling as part of the podcast I’m involved with called The Conquistabores. My latest article is about Survivor Series 1998 and it can be found here.

Now that all that’s out of the way it’s time to sit down with a notebook in hand and check this latest draft.

Codename Dashboard

It feels a little bit like cheating because I’ve just been moving around huge chunks of paragraphs to try and get them in some kind of logical order. The first couple of chapters have an overall rewrite on them but I haven’t tinkered with the rest of them that much (although in many cases it’s really obvious what I need to do with them). Even after all this though I don’t feel as pent up on the March 4th date as I did a few weeks ago. It would probably have been impossible to meet that considering I’d be demolishing vast parts of the book and rewriting them again.

The good news is that’s off from around my neck. The bad news is that there’s still a fair bit of work to do. I do feel now however that it’s much clearer as to where this needs to go. The time bending side of the story that features two time lines ten years apart being told side by side is a bit of a risk but without it the book would feel a bit bland and toneless. It’s important this works.

As a celebration of sorts though I’ll let you read something that’s now been left on the cutting room floor in the shape of an entire chapter. It will have spelling mistakes in it, it will read horribly and it might not make sense but I’m not going back to correct any of it as it’s been sliced out. It’s part of Jamie the police officer’s investigation around the locals as to who may know anything about this young girl’s disappearance. As a result of searching through her emails and chat history on the family computer (with permission) he finds the name of a young lad from her class in there. He goes around to the house to ask questions in front of the boy’s unimpressed father. Quite simply it’s an investigation that the reader knows won’t come up with anything due to the events of ten years later hence it’s rather pointless in retrospect.

The cups of coffee arranged on the table had begun to turn cold. Jamie had recognised the boy in front of him as one of the kids he’d picked up for petty vandalism a few months ago. Back then he had been all mouth, gobbing off with ‘Pigs’ this and ‘Filth’ that, now that the police had actually come to his home and started to as him questions he’d reverted back to being a scared teenager in that awkward time of being neither child or adult.

“Will this take much longer?” asked the boy’s father who was sat next to him on the sofa opposite. Jamie drummed his fingers across his pad of notes. “It’s just a couple of questions, nothing really to worry about?”. Jamie had phoned ahead, told them a quick outline of why he wanted to stop by and to make sure their son would be in the house. His father had agreed to it all but still sat there with a vest on tapping his feet on the floor. Jamie had noticed the fishing rods by the front door on the way in, perhaps the hope was that he’d go away quickly so they could be put to use.

“Does the name Anne mean anything to you?” Jamie questioned whilst flicking through his notes.

The boy screwed up his forehead and raised his top lip before letting forth a curt “Eh?”.

Father looked sharply at son.

“What’s that grunting supposed to mean? Answer the question properly”.

The boy looked down at the floor.

“Pardon, sorry” he mumbled.

Jamie felt he’d have to give a few more pointers.

“She’s gone missing from her home, some of her emails mention you, she’s in your class”

“Aye”.

That was all he got back.

Jamie prodded a little bit more.

“Do you know where she went?”

The boy jolted upwards, almost levatating off the furniture.

“I haven’t killed her!”.

Jamie felt himself physically moving backwards in his chair. For a short few seconds it seemed like the kid had become a small demon and was about to launch himself across the room. Whatever had possessed him was short lived as he soon sat back down. The courage has risen to the surface before fading into the atmopshere.

He fixed the kid a look, the same look he had given when he had lifted him for spray painting the wall opposite the book maker’s shop. He’d just about managed to scrawl ‘Pigs come catch me’ in sizable lettering across the wall. Sadly for him the ‘pigs’ had come and got him and he hadn’t been best pleased about it.

“Nobody said anything about anybody killing her”.

“But she’s away and you haven’t found her yet”.

“Doesn’t mean she’d dead though”.

The boy shrunk back into the couch, his father fixed him a look trying to silently convince him to not go down the route of mentioning death. Jamie once again had to get to the point.

“She had emails on her laptop that mentioned you by name, how close were you exactly?”.

The boy looked towards his Father, he received a nod and drew a deep breath.

“She sits opposite me in maths”.

“So…” Jamie continued “…did you talk much because she seems to know you”.

“We’ve spoke a few times, she came to watch our football team play a couple of times”.

“Did you invite her there?”.

“I might have mentioned we were playing and she came down for that”.

“Did you speak to her online?”.

“A couple of times”.

“Did she mention anything about wanting to leave here?”.

The Boy shrugged his shoulders.

“She said she was bored of this place a couple of times”.

Jamie furiously scribbled on his pad.

“Enough to want to leave on her own?”

The boy just shook his head. Jamie took a sip of the tea that had been made for him even though it was tepid now.

The Father stepped in.

“You going to be much longer, the wee guy’s getting stressed out here, if you’re going to blame him for anything then get started now”.

“I can assure you that nobody is blaming him for anything at the moment” sad Jamie being as formal as he possibly could “I’m only making enquiries for possible leads”.

“Well he’s done nothing so there’s nothing to get”.

His eyes were wide, full of panic. Jamie didn’t recognise the father but soon summised that he’d probably had a few meetings with law enforcement in the past. Anybody who got this defensive usually did.

Jamie felt it was probably time to leave. The thought that he was currently agravating a child came to mind. Also, getting into an alteracation with his Father wasn’t exactly high on his agenda. Jamie rose up from the chair.

“Well I won’t keep you anymore then”.

The Father sprang up from his chair and almost shoved Jamie out of the way in order to get to the front door. The boy got up as well in order to follow them until stopped in his track by his Father.

“You stop there son, I’ll just see the officer out”.

The boys shoulders hunched again and he threw himself down on the soft furnishings. The door was closed on him.

The front door was flung open and the cold wind blew through the dark hallway. The Father looked behind Jamie as if to check that his son hadn’t followed.

“Just let me tell you one thing here officer” he said whilst pointing “My son wouldnt be involved with that lass so you’re in the wrong here”.

“But he just said they’ve sent each other messages” Jamie protested.

“Maybe so but that means absolutely nothing”.

Jamie put his hat back on and straightened his jacket.

“I may well be back” he said as he crossed the threshold.

“Don’t be in a hurry” were the words spoken as the door slammed behind him.

Jamie found himself standing in the street wondering what crime exactly this gent had been lifted for in the past. Probably something assualt related, certainly with alcohol involved alongside resisting arrest. His mind then switched back to the problem at hand. He had no leads, not much information and time was going fast. It was time to upgrade the search.

Drinking From The Cauldron

February 4th, 23 months writing the book. My goal of getting a workable second draft up and running by the two year mark has slipped a little due to a lack of progress in the last week or so.

Looking back over the last few weeks I’ve noticed that I’m spending a lot of time tweaking chapters, sometimes getting tiny details sorted out before moving on. In effect I’m taking a chapter and rewriting it two or three times. Whilst it’s good to make sure its working okay it does mean I’m making slow progress.

So I had a new idea. For the initial run I’m concentrating on chapter order and getting the overall structure right. Once I’ve got that locked down then I’ll start to go chapter by chapter and sharpen it all up.

It feels a little bit like cheating but it means I’ll be okay for March 4th.

Moderate Elemental Powers

Eleven chapters down, many of them with extra notes at the side in red font to give me a later heads up about bits that will need fixing. It’s full of things like “Would actual humans talk like this?” and “She was damp in the first draft, now she’s completely dry”.

Context is everything.

Whilst it’s not readable to the outside world at this time there are fleeting lines and maybe a couple of paragraphs when it reads like I really want it to. It’s descriptive, it’s darkly comic and it buzzes along.

Then it slips back into the same old and dull formula.

But those small moments are the charm.

Code Wheels

I’ve mentioned before how much this book sometimes suffers a bit from originally being written as a film script. It’s hit home how much this can be the case with Chapter 9.

As I’ve rewritten parts of this Anne, the missing girl in the story, starts aboard the alien craft before getting out, going back to her house which has jumped ten years into the future as far as she’s concerned and then she goes off to find the police officer. On film, where the idea of a scene can be put across fairly quickly, moving through three different areas would seem fine but writing this all down makes it feel stretched out beyond all belief.

The obvious answer is to just do what I’ve done before and split the chapters. My chapter count is already pretty high thought and it would probably leave what feels like two half chapters rather than full ones.

This first rerun of the book feels more like sorting out overall structural issues than actually fixing words.

Experienced In The Supernatural.

There’s a chance I’ve mentioned this before on this blog but I often get the feeling when watching a movie or reading a book that I’m wasting time. Not that whatever you might be reading or watching at the time is poor but more that I should be getting on with my own stuff. How can I possibly be gaining ground in my own work if I’m spending time reading somebody else’s?

It’s annoying as hell because it’s an internal reaction I have that makes zero sense under any kind of scrutiny. As a result though it’s rare that I get into a book fully. A few days ago however I bought a book with a token I was gifted at Christmas.

I have never read any Stephen King books. I’ve seen The Shining movie (which King fell out with Kubrick during production of) but I’m not into horror generally. I wondered how a book could be scary, I actually thought that King wasn’t going to be that great.

I’m four chapters in and he’s really bloody good isn’t he? Each character is so well defined in the opening couple of chapters and the story has been brilliant from the get go. I’m actually damned jealous in how he makes this look so easy. It’s uncommon for a book to truly ‘click’ with me this early and I think the last one was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Maybe I can put this down as research then I won’t beat myself up about just chilling with a book.

Also, why I didn’t call this blog entry ‘All Work And No Play Makes Cam A Dull Boy’ escapes me.