Two years ago around this time of year I ran out of writing steam. The initial excited charge of the book beginning had worn off and the entire project sunk in spectacular fashion. It took four months to get the thing airborne again.
I’m trying to avoid a similar event this time around. Now though my son is off school for the summer so writing during daylight may be difficult. I may have to do what I’ve done this evening and that’s have a very focused two hours once everybody else is in bed. I managed to complete a tricky chapter doing this tonight.
Three weeks off wasn’t something that I intended to happen but it did. Upon reaching the halfway point in the second rewrite I just seemed to have stopped dead and through various reasons I haven’t been able to get back to it until the last couple of days.
There have been a couple of changes that seemed small on the surface but have caused a few ripples to turn into waves throughout the wider story. It’s been a problem having to delete entire chapters from the middle of the book and rebuild them from scratch. It makes it feel a bit like walking through treacle again and this was the reason the writing shut down in the summer of 2017 during the first draft.
I’m starting to warm it up again bit by bit to avoid that complete shutdown again. It’s just about working but some chapters I’ll have to come back to later and fill out.
Usually I do entries in this block after I’ve finished a writing spell. It’s like a cool down from a long run and after spending so long trying to make stuff up it’s a bit of a relief to have a few paragraphs just writing about how the day is going.
It is getting a little bit old though. There’s only really so much I can give away when I’m writing about writing a book lest the entire story be dropped out there before time. I was thinking about writing a little bit about movies I like. Nothing greatly critical or in depth but just something to say why a particular title appeals to me and how I discovered it.
If anything it’ll give you a break from reading about me getting stressed at various chapters. I also means I can get some pictures up to brighten it up because there are not many interesting pictures I can place here to convey the writing process.
The first time I ever heard of the terms ‘Manga’ and ‘Anime’ were when I read Super Play magazine in the early 90’s. The vast majority of the magazine’s contents were about the Super Nintendo and there were certainly many magazines covering the same topic at the time. What made Super Play special though was the fact that, despite being written and made in the UK, it was designed as if it were Japanese. This was even right down to the price being in both Pounds and Yen on the front cover. Nobody in the UK used the term ‘Japanese Role Playing Game’ (or JRPG) in 1993 because nobody really knew anything about the culture. Super Play made an effort to change all that.
In between the sections of video games Super Play had regular columns about Japanese comics and animated TV series and films. Names like Appleseed and Ghost In The Shell cropped up a whole but one title seemed to be lauded as the pinnacle of anime at the time. That was when I first read about Akira. Not only was it apparently a fantastic movie but it was also constantly being lined up for video game adaptations that were either poor or didn’t turn up at all.
I don’t think I ever took steps to seek out Akira though. Japanese animation seemed a whole world away from Scotland, there were certainly no streaming services to watch it on at the time and buying it would involve importing a VHS copy that may or may not work on our current VCR set up. It bypassed me for a good few years. Eventually though it was screened as a special on Channel 4 in the very early hours of the morning. I happened to flick through channels, land on it and instantly recognise the opening bike chase scene through Neo Tokyo. I stuck around and watched the whole thing. It instantly became one of my favourite films.
I always have a theory that certain themes in films are often tackled much better by those from countries who experienced such events themselves. District 9, a film made in South Africa about aliens being segregated from humans in Johannesburg is all the more compelling as it comes from a country has seen apartheid. Akira is the story about a weapon being set off that will destroy the city and its inhabitants from a country that experienced two atomic bombs.
Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and based on his mage series of the same name Akira tells the story of the leader of a biker gang called Kaneda trying to save his friend Tetsuo from secret government experiments that turn him into a weapon. Tokyo was bombed twenty years previously in the story and it’s very possible it may happen again. This feeling of everything being one step away from destruction feeds Akira and keeps it going right until the end.
There isn’t really a frame out of place in Akira and as I watched it in my room on a 14 inch Sony TV in 1993 I was blown away. Being made in the late 80’s meant that computer technology wasn’t really up to speed yet for something like Akira’s scope. Everything in the movie is hand drawn and painted, each individual cell and it’s all the more staggering when you see it flowing. Akira was the movie that convinced me that animation can say something and not just be the reserve of Saturday morning kid’s TV. It lead into a great appreciation of Japanese art in general. Akira tapped into my love of sci fi but put a whole other cultural spin on it. For that reason it’s a high entry in my favourite film list.
Also I never got around to buying the VHS. I did buy the DVD when it came out though. I’ll probably get the bluray as well.
Have you ever done that thing when you spend an hour rewriting a chapter and getting everything in the right order before realising that you might just be better off dumping the whole thing in the bin as it’s incredibly dull?
I just have.
A chapter having the Mother in this story return to her old house in the dilapidated state it’s in seemed like a cracking idea but even after some cleaning out it still reads horribly. It’s also the second chapter in a row with no dialogue of any kind either. Added to this it really doesn’t help my problem of having this character do nothing but mope around the town by having her mope around a house instead.
It’s standing at the moment but I might get rid of the thing.
Another chapter ripped up and rejigged. The start seemed okay with my police officer taking a short trip down to the beach in the middle of the night to find an evidence of an alien encounter. In the original first draft though he certainly finds that and was physically chased by the thing. Now though it was better to save that for later. He’s a cynic and a disbeliever so any direct contact now will blow any kind of tension apart especially as he’s meeting somebody who claims to have seem strange things going on.
He certainly finds something there below the sand but it won’t be the full show right now.
We’re nearly at the halfway point though and this thing is actually readable in places.
When I’m not writing I can get really down about it. This then spills out into other aspects of my life and a vicious cycle starts. A couple of weeks ago I was stuck in a rut of struggling to write. I’d spend days feeling like a meat machine just carrying out programmes for the same situations everyday and coming home to find myself spending evenings watching a stream of garbage on YouTube simply because it was on the TV. What I really didn’t want was another stretch like this time last year when I spent around four or five months only doing about five thousand words.
This afternoon I found a groove though and it’s a simple thing that seems to have got it going.
This morning I went for a cup of coffee with Kathleen and John, two members of Dumfries based ghost hunting group Mostly Ghostly. Long time readers of this blog may remember my meetings with them a few years ago and attending their Ghost Walks around Dumfries. It had been a long time since I’d last seen them but we managed to get in touch and arrange a day for them to come through to Gretna for a catch up.
It was fantastic. They told me a bit about their future plans (very exciting) and they asked about the book. I gave them the synopsis and they were both interested. It’s a small thing but it felt really good that at least a couple of people were saying they’re interested in the final result. It’s certainly an ego thing but it was the first opportunity I think I’ve had to tell people about the book outside of my day job. That ‘isolated writer’ feeling was blown away for a short while. I got home with a small bit of belief in myself. Small but significant as it turned out.
I’d done the shopping, the dog was being looked after so I didn’t need to walk it, my son hadn’t got home from school. The way was clear to write about a thousand words which, having read them back, have a vibe that feels like me. Some writers make a big noise about ‘finding your own voice’ and whilst I don’t think I’ve got that far I am starting to get phases when I am happy with what I’m putting down on a page. That stuff matters to me and it matters as far as getting this book done. I’m in a much better frame of mind as a result of this afternoon as well.
Some chapters are easy to rewrite, others seem to take days of doing two hundred word chunks, leaving it for a few hours and then repeating that process for about a week. The last one fell into the latter.
One of the biggest threads that went through this story right at the start was the question of how long the police officer and the girl who go missing have known each other. For ages whilst planning this I had it down that they knew each other well and that he was trying to help the Mother find her daughter not only as part of his professional obligation but also because he was friends with them. Deep down I wanted the reader to get the slightest impression that it could have been him that killed her. This was also the reason that the alien presence was hidden away on the first half of the earlier draft.
Having written the chapter with the girl coming back from the dead and meeting the police officer again it reads much better and with far more tension if they’ve never met. Of course he’ll have seen her picture in the photos provided for the posters at the time of her disappearance but he’s never actually met her. It’s worth it for the initial moments they spend in each other’s company with him not knowing who she is. The penny dropping for him about halfway through the chapter is far better than them both just saying hello at the start.
I probably shouldn’t be making such massive wholesale changes at this stage. Is it not better to alter things if you think the alternative is better rather than just carry on?