Chipping away, chipping away.
I’ve not been able to blast the home stretch as much as I would have liked to. There’s been the odd few hundred words here and the one hundred word chunk there. It’s okay though, I’m not feeling it as much of a battle as I was halfway through.
The last few session have got me thinking about myself at the age of thirteen or fourteen. The kid who would sit there in his room with one lamp burning until the early hours of every morning. Every single other person in the house had long since (sensibly) gone to bed and were asleep. I’d be up writing in a pad with a pen in my hand. I didn’t even have a computer or a laptop to edit anything with back then. All the stories I wrote were in ink with single words and paragraphs struck out.
I’d write whilst drinking coffee which was a recent introduction to my life. I’d done work experience in a local library and, upon turning up on the Monday morning, I’d been asked if I wanted a cup of coffee. I recall thinking that rejecting this offer might make me seem awkward so I’d agreed. Having never really had a cup of coffee in my life I wasn’t sure how I preferred it. I essentially said no to every follow up question.
So it arrived black with no sugar.
And I spent the afternoon skipping around the place filing books whilst on a caffeine buzz.
Dear reader, it has remained my one true vice.
I’d write whilst listening to late night talk radio. I loved the sense of danger and the truly strange people that would sometimes be allowed on air. With the internet today everybody who has an opinion can broadcast it within seconds. Back then you might have been speaking on the airwaves rather than tapping on Twitter. I loved how different people spoke and how the conversation flowed. Dave from Cardiff might be convinced there’s a ghost in his kitchen. Jenny from Newcastle would phone in about the aliens again.
Most of all though I’d write whilst nursing the burning desire to ‘be a writer’. At that age I was hopeful I could find a way to get a career out of making up stories. It often crossed my mind that I might have given up on that idea as I got older because it seemed so distant and more than a bit silly.
Fourteen year old me would be happy that thirty seven year old me is far from giving up. He’d be over the moon that there’s nearly a first draft of a book finished.
Every time I sit down at a keyboard I’ll have a smile for that kid.
Because one day we’ll make it.
I have yet to go back over the book in full. That process will have to wait until the end. I have however zipped back and looked at individual parts just to see how they stack up, almost like a preview of the work that’s to come.
Now I have a much clearer idea of the ending (much more than I did a year ago put it that way) I can see exactly what was going wrong with the characters when I was starting out writing them. From the point I’m at now, looking back, it makes it really easy to give them a much better starting point and to push small details that work towards that goal.
Also I’m finding that it’s only at this point, over 50,000 words in, that the book is really finding its voice. I had thought that I was going to be handling a very serious, dark story about a missing child assumed murdered. The truth about this though is that I’m not sure I have the skill to do that any kind of justice. As a result the sci-fi elements have taken over much more and the whole thing isn’t quite as doom laden as it might have turned out to be had it stayed on the original course. I’m not saying it’s now all sunshine and roses but there’s a certain dark sense of humour running through it which gives it a Scottish edge.
Because generally we Scots have a morbid outlook on life.
It’s been a few days since I managed to get anything on the book done so I sat down tonight to get things moving again In the end I was only able to do 200 words but that’s far better than nothing. I’ve actually spent most of this week doing a writing job for a games website called Orange Bison. They gave me Sundered to review. You can give it a bit of a read here if you like. I’ll be doing something each week for them for the near future.
When looking back at the last few months and the progress on the book attached to that I’ve come to the conclusion that I write with more frequency and intensity when things might not be so hot in other aspects of my life. My day job at the moment seems to be going through many changes and is hitting the busiest time of the year. Over the last few months I think I’ve battered through about 20,000 words and to be nearing the finish line is something that I really didn’t think was going to happen around Christmas last year. At that stage I was lucky to get anything done and the whole project just seemed destined to be abandoned. I’m not sure I’m quite at the level where I need life adversity to help the creative process but I do think it perhaps helps.
Another few hundred words. It doesn’t sound like a lot but as of now I’m over the 50,000 words mark. When I think back to how long it took me to grind through the 30-40k part (about the entire of last winter it seems) then I’m really happy that I’ve gone through 40-50 in the last couple of months. I’m about 5000 words away from wrapping up a first draft.
The chapter I’m currently on is suffering a bit from being a written story that was once going to be a film. There’s quite a lot going on visually and I feel I’m maybe skimming over character’s reactions and thought processes.
But this is what rewrites are for!
Being on holiday from my day job for the last ten days or so has meant I’ve assumed my natural sleeping pattern. This means that I’m finding myself staying up until around 1am and getting out of bed in the morning after 8am. It also means I’ve been starting writing session much later than usual. Usually, if it got beyond 10pm, I’d not really bother starting up my laptop and writing because it would be too late to late to get anything of significance done and I’d usually have work to get to early the next morning. Without that barrier I’m finding myself getting started at 11:30pm some night and still getting good chunks done. To be honest I think I might write better with moonlight.
1000 words done again tonight.
I’m quite happy with progress right now if I’m honest. Another 1000 words have been done today. In fact it’s a small nudge over that as I was just about reaching the end of a chapter and it felt really strange to stop at the 1000 mark if I only had another couple of paragraphs to go until it reached a natural ending. As a result, it’s reached 48,335.
Part of me is a bit worried now that 55,000 might seem short. There are chapters in this though that have a very bare boned approach right now as I seem to have just skimmed over certain details when I wasn’t really sure about how characters would react in that situation. Now I’ve reached the end game I’m much clearer about each character’s drive and reaction to events which leaves me a lot of space to go back to in the earlier parts.
Some of this stuff I won’t have read back over since I wrote it a year ago so it’s probably going to read really horribly. I’ll be wonderfully happy once I can write the words ‘The End’ on the tail of a first draft though.
No software updates today and a notebook that actually plans the final parts of the story to hand. Therefore another 1000 words have gone down. It’s now at just over 47,000. A lot of it reads like trash but there are moments in which it hangs together. Small parts of it read fine which is fairly encouraging for future edits.
I’ve tried to press on with more writing beyond the 1000 word mark today but it suddenly got to be a bit of a grind. Perhaps I’m just better doing occasional bursts.
At least my laptop didn’t decide to have a second night updating just about every aspect of software it possibly could. Tonight’s trouble was a far more glaring problem.
I’d reached the end of one chapter when I left it last, I had no idea how to proceed. Who would take over the story baton? What timescale was I going to (the entire story works on two threads, one in the present and one two years before)? How are these characters going to work towards the ending?
I reached for my notebook but then realised that I’ve been adding bits on and generally modifying as I go along for the vast majority of this so not a lot of the planning I was doing all that time ago makes sense now. I had to go back to the notes, work out where I was and join the dots to the ending.
This has resulted in five more chapters to go, a change to the ending and a twist which I’ll have to plant seeds for earlier on when I come back to do the rewrite.
So whilst nothing was done word count wise the way forward has now become significantly clearer.
The ending is right there within touching distance.
The plan this evening was to get another good few words done on ‘The One Who Left’. I opened by laptop to begin with a feeling like I was going to batter through this in next to no time. I was on the starting line and ready to go. Then that idea was suddenly put to the kerb.
‘Windows is updating, your computer may restart several times’.
With a heavy sigh I let my computer do its thing.