Regular readers will know that as well as writing scripts and books I’m also a huge wrestling fan. I’m part of a podcast known as Conquistabores and our latest episode was uploaded today. Enjoy if that’s your bag.
I was always kind of waiting for this to happen. The doubt has turned up.
It’s the final day of my week off and the words count stands at 15,000. My hope of getting to 20,000 by the end of May seems unlikely. Perhaps I shouldn’t worry too much, it’s not as if I have a publisher breathing down my neck on this. It does however feel a little gutting that I didn’t make it.
Also, I’m asking myself a lot of questions whilst away from my keyboard.
‘Can this story really last for an entire book?’.
‘Are you burning through the good stuff too early?’.
“Is it actually any good?’.
A horrible writing day. I tried to pick up at the start of a chapter but that means finding a groove again and it wasn’t really happening. Instead I put my effort into writing about wrestling. I’ve still done 2500 words today but only 200 were towards the book.
I did finally get a haircut though. That 20k words photo will look a little neater.
I was actually out last Saturday night, in a bar, amongst other people. It’s a very rare set of circumstances. After attending a local wrestling show I ended up in a pub as one of my workmates was there with his friends celebrating his Birthday. I didn’t really know the rest of the group but one of them instantly said “Is this your novelist friend?”.
They asked about the book and I gave them a few details about the start.
“A woman returns to her old home in Scotland ten years after her daughter’s disappearance. Her daughter then returns to the town having not aged a single day and thinking she’s only been gone five minutes”.
I’m putting it down to the drink but everybody around the table seemed interested. Then one asked the obvious question…
“So what’s the ending?”.
In my head I was thinking ‘Don’t start talking about alien abduction in the middle of a pub on a Saturday night’. What came out was ‘You’ll have to read it when it’s ready then won’t you?’. In retrospect, this was probably the right choice as they then proceeded to ask if I was actually going to publish it.
The answer is obviously yes.
So my question of the day (and feel free to stick your 2p, 2 cents or whatever currency you use in the comments section) is how much of your story do you tell people in advance if they ask?
Remember what I was saying about characterisation? How my main characters don’t really seem to be coming alive right now but the peripheral ones most certainly are. It’s a really bad balancing problem that seems to mainly be affecting the Mother right now. She’s just floating around the town trying to come to terms with her daughter going missing. I really need to add some bulk to her description also.
Here, as a contrast of sorts, is the opening of Chapter 9 which gives a proper introduction to the guy who runs the local shop.
‘Robert adjusted his glasses to get them straight again on the bridge of his nose. He had only been in one fight in his life and it had ended with a direct, square smack to his face. The had fallen backwards with the impact and been forced to visit the local hospital to have them snap his nose back into place. Robert had worn glasses since he was young and blamed every ill fitting pair on this one incident.
He lugged the great pile of newspapers from outside the front door towards the shelves at the front of his shop. The thin, wire like string dug into his fingers leaving him with red marks across his knuckles. Slowly he began to empty the papers out to the dusty shelves. This gave him the ideal opportunity to look at the front page headlines of the local press. Another sheep lost and more arguments at the local council. His eyes rolled upwards in disgust. People would still come in a buy it as some kind of unspoken duty, read it for two minutes and keep it under the sink in case they need to wrap anything for the post.
Robert expected the same list of people in the building today at the exact same times they were usually here. There would be the early risers, coming down the hill on bicycles before propping them up outside and coming in for the usual chat. They would talk about the weather, who had moved in to the town lately, how many fish the boats were carrying back in each morning and possibly a short while discussing the local football team and how they should certainly be signing a striker to set the foundations for their rise up the ranks of Scottish football. He’d go through this pattern about four or five times each morning in the same order of people. Sometimes they’d branch off depending on what had happened to them on the way here but, from experience, Robert found that it was difficult for anything of note to happen to anybody who woke up at that time of morning.
He wandered over to the door and flipped the sign over. Sure enough, after a few moments, the first bike was propped up alongside the outside wall of the shop and the first customer came wandering in.
“Yes, the weather is lovely isn’t it?”
“Well maybe a little too warm”.
“At least it’s not snow”.
“Plenty haddock out there now?”
“Probably a striker so we can score some goals”.
They would then merrily march out of the shop, newspaper under the arm and bag of tobacco in hand. Then they would be replaced five minutes afterwards with somebody else who would have the same conversation with a different jacket on.
Yet Robert loves the regularity of it. He just about knew everybody’s names in this town and the continual stream of standard talk made the moment when somebody would lean across the counter and whisper ‘I didn’t tell you this but…’ all the sweeter. The Church might have been on the other side of the harbour but most people would come in and admit their sins to him. Also, the Church didn’t sell beer.’
Now why the hell can’t I do that with them all?
Is it a ‘thing’ to compare your writing style (or perceived lack of) to other writers you like or admire? I haven’t added anything to the word count today thus far but I have spent a little bit of time going over the last few pages. I’m used to writing scripts for the screen, it’s what I did most of in college and in the years since. I’m finding that I’m so paranoid about over writing stuff that I’m already cutting things down to bare bones in places.
I’ve been reading over some Neil Gaiman and Chuck Palahnuick and they paint rich pictures of each character. I’m perhaps thinking far too visual in that I’m trying to use ‘shorthand’ for each person in the story. I’ve gone back to notice that one of the most well realised characters so far is the woman who owns the bed and breakfast. She has really thick glasses which fall down to the end of her nose all the time, her house is covered with pictures of dogs on the walls and she sings to herself loudly even when she’s in front of people. She’s pretty throw away and doesn’t have a great deal of impact in the whole story but she’s one of the most stand out people so far.
Which is a bit frustrating to say the least.
I seem to do a lot of pacing when I’m writing for a few hours straight. On regular trips to get up and do put some washing on, do dishes or make more coffee. There would be moments of watching Youtube video guides on how to best play Street Fighter V. Apparently the best advice is to move the joystick quietly as if you’re a Japanese schoolchild who doesn’t want his Mum to know he’s playing this late at night.
Regardless of this, with regular trips back to write a few words here and there, I’ve got up to 12,600. This still doesn’t seem like much but it’s over 2000 more added from two days ago. This therefore represents the biggest jumps in word count since I started this whole thing in the first week of March. There’s a small chance that during the week off I have after Saturday I can reach the 25,000 mark which would be at least one third of the way through.
One thing I’ve thought about is if I should wait until the very end to go back and edit an entire manuscript or take it in thirds and edit smaller chunks. This might be a decision made fairly soon.
I didn’t start writing today until pretty late on, around about 1:30pm to be precise. I had to go into the city to get a couple of things. The writing was crawling along and it didn’t feel good. I think I seriously had the passing thought at one stage that my right thumb nail needed filed down. I was also, for the very first time, getting the creeping sensation that everything I’ve written so far is no good. I started to think it wasn’t detailed enough, that the characters were crap or that the story itself is just too damn pitiful. I walked away from the keyboard, picked my son up from school and tried to gear myself up for it as the evening wore on.
It’s about 11:45pm now. I’ve been writing in a fairly solid fashion for the last two hours. I’ve gone from 10,500 words to 11,600. Not a massive leap but enough to feel like I’ve turned a really bad writing day into a half decent one.
And I filed down my thumb nail.
I’d love to say I’ve been bombing ahead with the book. I could be 12k in or maybe even pushing 15k if I’d tore through it.
I cannot for I have not. The book remains on 10.5k currently. This is mainly down to deciding that due to it being the last weekend of the Easter holidays it would be best to just relax. I’m working in the morning and then again on Saturday. This is followed by a week off so I’ll be attacking the book over that time. The push comes as of Wednesday.
For now my son and I have spent ages playing Stardew Valley on the PS4. It’s a farming game. We’ve just got the money for a cow barn so this is exciting news indeed. Next it’s a windmill.
I lead an exciting life, I’m sure you can tell.
One of the really strange things that I’ve found whilst writing this book as opposed to any script I’ve written in the past is the difference between struggling to write anything and blasting through a thousand words in an hour is pretty thin.
Does that make sense?
No, probably not. Let’s try again.
When I write a screenplay I tend to find that I have days when scenes can just roll of the brain like a production line. Some other days it’ll be far more of a grind and the ‘feeling’ of a scene doesn’t sit right and you feel like you’re just forcing the story out rather than it breathing of its own accord. With the book this turnaround can be within five minutes of each other.
Tonight I found myself struggling to add another 150 words onto the 10,000 I arrived at last night. In this chapter the Mother has just come to the conclusion that her daughter isn’t coming home after leaving the house that afternoon. I’ve got her watching the clock in her home, then going out to the street to look for her before walking into the town centre to find the local shopkeeper so she can ask (she knew her daughter was heading to the shop). I’ve described her journey down the street towards the shop and it felt a bit dull. Darkness has fallen and this town has pretty much shut for the night except for the pubs. I was churning through without any great flourishes.
The shop ends up being closed but my character knows exactly where to find who shes after. I got to the part where she enters the harbourside pub and suddenly the word count accelerated. I thought I’d have to pack in for the night having done about 100 words (not great bt at least something). As it stands another 500 chunk has gone down. I could probably do more but I’m back in work tomorrow morning and I’d prefer to leave it at a good point so it’s easier to pick up again.
Everybody does it that way right?