A book seems a really big and all consuming thing right now. Having finished the latest draft a couple of weeks ago during lockdown I’ve touched up a few chapters but not gone back to it since. I’ve taken to doing smaller writing tasks that provide much more of an instant gratification upon completing them. I’ll spent time reviewing a cheap game over on the video game blog my son and I keep. I’ll write some more about wrestling and put that up on Bad Education. I’ve also discovered single player role playing games during the lockdown, one of which is scratching that writing itch just dandy right now. It’s called The Machine by Adira Slattery and Fen Slattery and it’s something of a revelation.
The Machine involves the keeping of a journal detailing how your character makes the titular contraption. It can be anything you want it to be. In my case it’s quite small like a pocket watch and able to sing songs from within. You play the game alone but the idea is that, once your character meets their demise, you pass the journal onto a friend so they carry it on as somebody who has found or been given the same journal. My current character is a discreet magician (I figure he’d have to be in order to keep his tricks under wraps).
You select two options from a list of about sixty jobs and characteristics, crossing them off the lost so nobody else can choose them. Using a deck of playing cards you lift the card on top and the number and suit influences what has happened. For example my first entry proper was the six of diamonds which gave me ‘hateful’ and ‘a sleepless night’. There followed a frantic half hour as I described my character pacing around his elaborate study in the early hours sketching his grand plan for the construction of the machine that would gain himmhis fortune. After those thirty minutes I was done, I could move on, I had achieved something. No long think times, no sitting infront of a blank page and no going back to rewrite. The Machine is part game and part creative writing exercise and if you’re a writer at a loose end or needing something of a writing based distraction then it’s a good $5 to spend.
The book still hangs over me though and it’s something of a problem to work on it knowing that there’s a whole heap more to do before I get that ‘done writing’ hit.
It turns out there is nothing quite like doing a chapter by chapter breakdown of your book to start a complete emotional rollercoaster. At some points I thought it was all stitching together extremely well, at others there was the feeling that nothing was going right and the whole thing had fell apart.
But at least now I have a list with each chapter and a couple of lines saying what does and doesn’t work with each. Only one of them has the words ‘delete this whole thing because it’s terrible’ written across it so it’s not that bad a score.
The first two chapters have already been rewritten and are actually now in a readable form. It’s just a matter of shining up the rest and making sure they stitch together well.
I haven’t vanished to be never seen again. I have done something that feels like that by moving house. We’ve been in the new place for about four weeks now and most of the boxes are away but some remain resolute in the corner of the spare room.
Our old house was on the market since March so the need to find a buyer has been hanging around all that time. I’m very glad to see the back of it.
No sooner did we have something resembling order of things then Christmas had to be prepared for. Writing has been pushed aside for a while. I’ve also yet to pick somewhere in the new place to sit and write. The previous house just had a view of the surrounding homes, this one has a hill at the back where the sun sets.
It was going fairly well. At one point in the first week of July I was rewriting a chapter each day. Then I got into a complete funk for a few days in which I wasn’t in the mood for anything other than watching Chill With Bob Ross with the lights off. Battling through this book was off the agenda because it felt exactly that, an uphill battle with no guarantee of anything at the end of it. Whatever it was it gnawed a big hole in my confidence.
I bought more notepads the other day. I probably didn’t need anymore but I wanted to write some stuff in my biggest notepad and found some written stuff from around 2009. It was a ten year echo from what felt like another dimension. There were notes about sending emails to people I can no longer recall, scripts that were dead ended long ago and half finished character profiles. I didn’t want to write anything else in that book as it just felt like adding to previous failures. A fresh one has a better outlook.
I’m thinking I might start working on a couple of short stories just to have an outlet that won’t be a massive fifty thousand word mess. It might prove to be a stupid idea in the long term as it’ll take even longer to get the book done but when was I ever in a rush?
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.
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.