Okay, this one might get a little bit over thought. I was going to sit down and bullet point this entire entry out but I was going through the stages of denial in the space of about ten minutes whilst trying to eat my lunch today. It’s probably going to be a winged out chain of thought. It might also sound really like I’m complaining but that ain’t really the case.
I was in the queue for my lunch today having decided to escape work for a while. Whilst waiting for coffee my phone buzzed in my pocket having finally decided it was in a place where the internet existed. An envelope icon appeared in screen from the Yahoo app so I flicked it open.
Email confirmation had arrived, I didn’t get onto the Dumfries and Galloway Mentorship scheme this year.
As a result I was mentally spun out for a good few hours this afternoon. Which is great when your work involves being welcoming for members of the public. If I could have just gone and sat under a table somewhere I would have. As it stood I processed contact lens orders instead. At least that was constructive.
At first I was angry, the certain feeling of ‘How bloody dare they!’ flooded in. I put a fair chunk of time and effort into the application and genuinely had a battle with myself to shut up the inner voice saying it wasn’t going to be worth it anyway. I hadn’t sent the documents off after giving up and saying ‘It’ll do’. I’d tweaked them and edited them to give me the best shot I could possibly make.
Then I calmed down and started to think about things a little bit clearer. Also, I’d had something to eat by this time which probably helped.
Would getting onto this scheme have been essential to getting this book done? Not really, it would have been nice and been small justification for spending this long on the thing over the last eighteen months but it’s not as if getting onto this was the cornerstone.
Does it alter the overall aim? Not in the slightest.
They overriding thing it took me so long to shift today was the fact that this was the first time that a section of the book had been read by somebody else bar me and it had been found lacking. This thought was still battering me around my head as I was driving home this evening. To turn this around into something of a positive I had to tell myself that I’m only on draft two. This book will get better and I’m damned sure I have the ability to do that. It’s a slow process which there ain’t a shortcut for but it is getting there. It’s a process which is happening right now.
By the time I’d pulled into my front drive I had pulled the positive out of it. It’s going to get done some way or another regardless of any setbacks along the road.
Was I not writing the other day about not getting bogged down in writing new chapters from scratch during this first rewrite? What have I spent most of today doing?
Indeed dear reader, I’ve been doing a new chapter.
Well it’s not completely new, it’s the second half of the chapter I split up the other day. It’s the first major description of the alien being (who still had the tree references remaining until I removed them today) and as a result of this being half a previous chapter it didn’t feel anywhere near long enough so I’ve been adding bits to it with descriptions of his body and voice. When we meet him here his body is beat up after a crash landing and he’s breaking apart on the beach. It’s fine though, he’s about to get a brand new one.
Occasionally it’s a matter of working outwards from what I’ve got and I got really into this one today so stuck with it. Anything else I’m going to come back to later has a red font running through it. Currently the draft looks like something I had in school as a result.
I’m waffling now and it’s getting late.
I’m kind of worried that I’m not ripping out massive chunks of the book during the second rewrite so far. Originally I was thinking I’d be hacking great stacks out and rewiring the whole thing almost from the ground up. Whilst I have been deleting paragraphs and putting some new ones in (and spent a whole evening rewriting the entire prologue) it doesn’t feel like major surgery yet.
This isn’t to say I’m of the opinion that what I’ve got so far if fantastic. I think it’s rather a case of just needing to get the order of the story correct so far and then layer it from there. This will probably take a hell of a lot of layers though.
Either way there’s something like a book slowly emerging here.
I managed to get started fairly early today (and by early I mean around 9am as opposed to the usual ‘just after lunch’). It means I’ve got another chapter down for the second version. I did indeed skip writing the newer one for now so that progress won’t be held up.
There are still bits that appeared later on in the first draft that I’m now trying to retroactively add the beginnings of in the earlier parts of this one. It’s smoothing the whole story out a bit more.
I’d actually had a fair chunk done before I ended up going up the street for a bacon baguette from the cafe. It was probably the best one I’ve had for a while.
I got to a point when I needed a brand new chapter. In the previous draft my alen was kept secret, hidden away in the shadows until about 60-70% of the way through when he revealed himself. It makes far more sense to have him pop up earlier though so his story has a bit more time to bed in as the book goes on. So it means writing a whole new chapter five from scratch as Pilot recovers from his crash landing on Earth.
But the problem became that I was stuck writing this new part and not getting on with rewriting all the other part I had to place in somewhere. The best feeling when rewriting is taking whole wads of text from the older version, cutting, pasting and then seeing the word count bump up another three thousand in seconds. There’s nowhere near as much staring at blank pages going on. It’s a bit of a downward bump to come back to that now.
I’m currently thinking of just putting the words ‘Blah, blah, alien’ in red letters on the page before skipping it for now and getting on with editing.
There are occasions when it becomes obvious that the first draft isn’t that far removed from the idea this story was going to be a feature film originally. I’ve just picked my way through the tangled web of Chapter 3 and realised that it goes from one location, to another and then yet another. On film this would work but it feels massively long and drawn out on a page. It doesn’t help that we’re following one character, never switching from her.
So I’ve had to split it. It ends after the second location is brought in. What happens in the third though is the first sighting of our alien friend so it’s important overall, probably more important than to be filling out the end of an early chapter.
Now I’ve just got to remember that I’ve left this bit out for now so I don’t leave a huge, nonsensical gap later.
There’s at least a couple of characters in the book that have changed a fair bit since they were first written down on a page eighteen months ago. Robert has gone from comedic relief to being one of the main cogs in the entire story for example. The other big change is Anne, the daughter who goes missing. Originally I had her down as about ten or eleven years old. This was partly because it’s old enough to take an active part in the story but also because it was the age of my son at the time of starting writing the book. It seemed like a no brainer and a fairly easy route forward.
It really wasn’t.
As the story went through the first draft I quickly came to the conclusion that eleven is far too young for the purposes of this story. She needs to be a bit more self sufficient in order for this to work. Any younger and she’d just be following along. Her age changed about halfway through the first draft to make her more like fifteen. The hardest part of this is to get her dialogue right. It’s apparently really easy to make teenage characters automatically sound sulky or aloof. She does have a little bit of that in her, she’s spent a decade and a half growing up in a dead end Scottish town, but I really don’t want her to spend all this time being in a stereotypical sulk. She’s the main driving thing in charge of this whole story after all.
It’s a difficult balance to get right.
That’s it, the entry for the mentorship scheme has been sent. I could have sat and twiddled about with it more and more by moving individual words about into a different order to make it seem better but I would be kidding myself. The deadline is this Friday at 5pm, I did not want to be running around like a banshee pulling it all together in the final moments. There was a moment when Yahoo Mail wasn’t allowing me to put hyperlinks into the text. My wife detected me stressing and calmly advised just shutting down Chrome and going back in. This seemed to work.
I received an email back within half an hour saying that my entry had been noted. Apparently there are six spots in the scheme but really, for me, there’s only five because they’ve guaranteed one slot for somebody under the age of 24. This is probably a really good way of running it as there have been plenty of times recently when I’ve read about various writing schemes, thought it sounded great before realising that I’m far too old for the age range they’re open to. Seems like sometimes there’s a belief that if you haven’t made it by your mid 20’s then you’re never going to make it at all.
The personal statement I wrote was written, scrapped, written again and then changed about before finalising. Originally I went with something really formal like it was a job application. Then I wrote something that was very similar to the ‘About’ page on this site but that gave a bit too much history and I’d ran out of words before answering why I would benefit from mentorship. In the end I went for a story about how working a day job whilst having ambitions of writing for a living is a little bit like accidentally getting off the train at the station before the one you wanted. You’re on the right line but you’ve no choice but to wait for the next train to come along. It felt a bit strange putting that in there but it’s a writing based mentorship so they’ll be used to metaphors. At least I hope they are.
The response email signed off by saying that they’re running this every year and there are plans afoot to expand to more than 6 spaces as of 2020. Apparently there’s nothing to stop me applying again next year if unsuccessful this time around. I’m not sure if that’s a set up for a gentle let down later or not but I’m beyond caring now. Quite simply something that a week ago I was convincing myself wasn’t worth it because they wouldn’t want me is now something I’ve entered with the best of my current ability. I’ve honestly probably put more effort into this than any job application I’ve ever done.
For now though we crack on with the rewrite.
No progress on the book today but there is a very good reason. I’ve spent all day stressing over a five hundred word personal statement for an application. It’s not for a job but it’s more for this.
I tripped up on this on Twitter the other night thankfully. I am indeed a Dumfries and Galloway based writer (I was even born here) and I am indeed halfway through a rather large writing project. With that in mind some professional guidance would be very much appreciated.
I had to get over my usual problem of a voice in my head telling me that I need not bother because I’m probably not what they’re looking for anyway. I’m writing a hokey science fiction book with a Scottish sense of humour in it. The doubter in me said that they’d probably want something deadly serious. I was better not bothering, it would be a waste of time.
But that’s the part that’s spent a good few years in control and got me bugger all.
So I’m entering this regardless of if they want hokey Scottish science fiction or not.
Because they can just say ‘No’ right?
I don’t think I’m a very morning writer.
Everybody else had left the house this morning by about 9am. I went for a shower, got something to eat, put some washing in the machine and then sat in front of my computer ready to go. I was then overcome with the feeling that if I started now then I’d be here all day and I wouldn’t have really moved from this spot. I stared at my screen for a few moments, put my jacket on and walked to the local coffee shop for a cappuccino. I was gone for about an hour before returning and rewriting another chapter.
The question I’d have is what exactly do other writers work on first during the initial rewrite? I’m currently more concerned with structure rather than any of the finer details. These first few chapters contain all of the character introductions as well and because I have a better idea where they end up it’s much easier to give them a better introduction. There is still some awkward dialogue going on but I’ll be going back and cleaning that up later.
For now though progress is good and there’s certainly a book emerging from all of this.