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.
Progress on the book this December has ground to a halt. It’s not something I’m deeply concerned about as the run up to Christmas has been organising gifts and various other bits. The same thing occured last year but that was a stretch from around October to the following March of nothing much getting done. As long as this current black out doesn’t go that long then we’ll be okay.
2018 was a strange year in that I didn’t really ‘finish’ any writing project. Whilst the first draft of ‘The One Who Left’ was finally done it’s in no readable state right now to anybody bar me. From the point of view of creating stuff for consumption it didn’t quite reach there this year.
But the better news from this year was podcasts. I’m involved in the pro wrestling podcast The Conquistabores and it’s genuinely a fantastic feeling to be talking about old wrestling events with my co-hosts.
Then came The Polis Box.
I first heard of the Doctor Who podcast from up North in that Edinburgh when a link to a near empty WordPress blog popped up on Twitter. The first episode went up inviting people to send in evidence fir or against the particular Who story they were covering at the time. I started sending them tweets mainly to get the kick of having my name read out. Tweets led to emailed options which then turned into recording audio files for them to drop into the show.
Then, in February this year, Lee messaged me asking if I wanted to be part of the podcast full time. So it came to pass that I got the train from Lockerbie to Edinburgh in March to block record three episodes. Dave and Lee were both fantastic company and very welcoming to the awkward Gretna boy who was confused by the big smoke. I went back for more in June and there are more around the corner.
Podcasts are great fun. If somebody could just pay me to talk into a microphone then that would be cool.
The biggest 2019 aim is to get this book done and out there. If I can get a second draft done by March 4th then it’ll mark two years since I wrote the first words on it. That would seem like good timing.
If you’ve been reading this blog since the start in 2012 or if you’ve jumped on in 2017 I wish you all the best for 2019. I don’t often put photos on this blog (bit difficult when it’s about writing) so have a failed selfie with my cat.
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.