It’s taken me weeks to rewrite this chapter. Perhaps it’s because writing opportunities have been a little bit limited recently with a house move imminent. Maybe it’s the fact that this was the chapter where Mother and Daughter meet again for the first time in a decade and it was always going to be emotionally heavy. I think I spent a lot of time running from this one, unsure of where to go with it and what to do once I got there.
In the first draft Anne (the daughter) found her Mother Morag in staying in the local bed and breakfast. I had a lovely scene in which, after the initial shock, they bonded together like nothing had happened and went on the merry way to finding our police officer and telling him that everything is okay now thank youverymuchthere’sreallynoproblem.
This is of course trash. Grade A, stinking trash.
Morag’s entire character just whisps along with everything placed before her and this exchange just underlined such behaviour. She runs away from the town in the first place because she feels everybody has turned against her and only returns when she assumes most of the residents will be senile or dead. Bar one scene in which she punches the first person to suggest she killed her own daughter Morag displays nothing of any kind of backbone.
So here’s the first major plot change in this draft. Rather than skip off out of the breakfast room of a fishing town B&B Morag does not believe the girl in front of her is her daughter. I’m building it up to the moment with some nice daytime soap opera stuff and then breaking it at the last possible second before ending the chapter there.
Scanning down my Twitter feed (@cripleh if you’re interested) I see that’s it’s just over one year since I started this rewrite of the book. I reached the middle of Chapter 27 today, there are 36 in total and I’m thinking we’re on the home stretch.
The home stretch of this lap anyway.
I’m getting back to the parts I patched together though. The chucked in, nonsense, half baked stuff that is really just there as a place holder until something better comes along. Now is the time for that ‘something better’ and it involves a lot of rewiring. It’s a tough thing because now I’m reading parts back and asking myself if I’d be happy reading this out aloud in front of people. I have an odd dream of being at a book event, one of those ‘Meet The Author’ things and being asked to read a section to the gathered audience. Currently there isn’t really a stretch in the book that I could do that with confidence. I’m aiming to sort that out on the next spin around though. This turn is all about getting the plot in the right order and the right pace. All the colour comes next and then we might have something approaching a readable story.
The aim is to have this run through done by Christmas and then possibly have the next finished by March 2020 which would mark three years since I started it.
I think I’m starting to go back over all the bits in the book that I patched over the first time around. There’s also he recurring problem of this story originally being thought out as a low budget film. I’m still using the same four or five real world location and not really appreciating that I can go absolutely anywhere when I’m just writing it as a book.
A fine example was today’s chapter in which my missing girl, who has returned to her home town after ten years, is trying to track down her Mother. In this first run through I’ve had her bumping into a random character who isn’t named and is never seen again. All he ends up doing is telling her where her Mother might be. It’s awful, clunky and seriously needed to be chopped out.
Considering she has something of a alien power about her now I’ve made her warp through memories of some distant planet just before it is destroyed completely before she is able to find her Mother by having a natural link to her regardless. It’s a chance to put in all the strange stuff I wanted to and to move away from the ‘real world’ descriptions that have been in there a fair bit now.
I’ve discovered I really like going crazy with the mad alien stuff.
As a side note I’ll hopefully get this draft done by Christmas. It seems strange to be talking about the end of the year in September though.
I’m still thinking about other, smaller writing projects I could do after completing this draft of the book. One of the slightly more off the wall ideas was wanting to do some live poetry. Perhaps it was a reaction to spending the last two and a half years just working on a book alone that makes me want to do shorter writing passages and perform them to get a real time audience reaction. Whatever the reason it went down on the list I made during the glitch I was having last month.
The slight problem is that I’ve always been terrible at poetry. This is something I’ll certainly have to overcome.
I’ll go on Youtube and just type the word ‘poetry’ and it comes up with some wonderful examples of the craft which are all very thought provoking and good to listen to. Anything I try and write never seems to get beyond the ;thrown together words’ part.
There’s a spoken word night every month in Dumfries at The Stove Network which might be a good idea to do. This might only be a viable option if I’m actually able to write something I’m happy with though.
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?
I’ve been on holiday from work for the last week or so and as such I seem to have reverted back to my old writing time frames. Nothing during the day, only getting underway after 9pm and continuing to past midnight. It’s short blasts, tonight with some video game music in the background and it’s proven to work really well.
I don’t think I’ll be going as full on as I did when I was a teenager though. During that time I could quite easily be up until 5am writing, often falling asleep at the desk with the radio still on softly in the background. I’m not sure the family would appreciate me being in bed well into the next afternoon these days.
I’m going to stop for the night now as it’s just past midnight but I’ve read back the stuff I’ve done this evening and it’s good.
My only wish would be to be able to keep that timescale going but I’m back in work on Thursday.
In a full swoop, a delicate press of a key, another chapter bites the dust. The one thousand or so word stretch detailing the young girl walking down the beach and being captured by some alien being is now entirely redundant due to this process taking place in the town shop. The strange part is that it read through fairly well early on and there’s a few descriptions I’m quite happy with. It still goes though, falling down to the cutting room floor.
The latter half of the chapter has notes all over it saying that it falls flat on its face and never really gets back up. I suppose it doesn’t really matter now.
With the chunks of rewriting and creating an entirely new chapter in the early going to bridge a gap the word count has sprung up. My original 55k is, even after deleting that entire chapter, up to 56.700. It’s still going well.