I wasn’t even planning on getting that many words done today. Even 500 or so would have been an accomplishment on a Sunday. My wife and son went off to watch Despicable Me 3 at the local cinema though so I managed to get a couple of hours at it whilst they were away. In the end I got 1000 words done so I’m now up to 23,000 at the end of Chapter 13.
Chapter 13, detailing the first character to meet the alien under the water, goes full on Doctor Who like territory. There’s nothing truly bad about that but the story up until now has been about a missing girl. This is obviously a very serious and sombre matter. This is the moment in the book when we go full on scifi and I’m still not sure that those two things clash horribly. There’s a part of me wanting to tone that side down a bit but the rest of me just reckons that my writing of the strange stuff is actually far better than writing the normal stuff. When I can inject a bit of imagination into events then I feel much more comfortable writing it as well.
It seems a very strange balance to have.
I’ve broken my spell checker.
As soon as I’ve got to beyond 20,000 words my version of Openoffice now seems to be telling me that every words in the English language isn’t recognised. The small red lines appear under every single thing I write which isn’t exactly a massive deal but does represent a small pain in the neck.
I’ve checked whatever language the software is on and, as before, it’s set to ‘English UK’. I’ve tried resetting the whole thing but no joy.
So now I’ve just settled for switching that particular feature off and just carrying on regardless.
I seem to have developed a complete inability to start writing before lunch. Today also involved another trip to a supermarket to buy food. There’s a new one opening three minutes walk away from my house on Thursday so at least I won’t need to drive as of next week.
I tried to get started this afternoon but ended up putting it off again. Then I had to pick my son up from school. I then get an hour before starting dinner to ask him how his school day went.
I got started at around 10pm. This is far too late especially considering I have work in the morning so can’t go too late. I got another solid 500 word chunk done again but I’m left imagining how much I’d get done if I actually sat down in the morning and began then.
Well that was a uphill battle.
Today I finally returned to the book but it took a long time to actually get to it. Despite planning out where I’m going on a chapter by chapter basis I was struggling with what the first sentence of Chapter 13 was going to be. It was the exact same feeling as starting the whole book off back in March.
This chapter starts on the beach by the town in the early hours of a summer morning. How exactly did I want to describe that? How would I set the scene? The blank page in front of me has been a deadly chasm nearly all day. I hoovered instead, I put washing on, I drove six miles to a supermarket purely to buy onions! All of this to avoid the act of actually getting on with the thing.
Eventually, after everybody else in the house had gone to bed I began. I only got another 500 words onto the pile but they feel significant.
We press on.
Here’s what I’ve been doing all these notes in for the last week or so. It’s a change from my usual black covers. I had thought that I’d be writing just a few lines before carrying on with the book. Those few lines threw up many extra questions regarding the story that I hadn’t anticipated before. I ended up taking each of the five main characters, writing down where they were at this point in the story and confirming what they want to achieve by the end and how they’re going to get there.
This in turn also chucked in a few more questions.
So I carried on.
I had hoped that Monday gone would have been the day when I picked this whole thing back up again but it felt too early. It felt like I had to sort a whole lot more stuff out. If I had gone back to it on that day then I probably would have had to organise a lot more issues out further down the line.
As it stands I’ve just finished planning out a further twenty chapters (on top of the twelve I have so far) which I think results in events rounding themselves off nicely at the end.
I think I’m ready to get back to it.
Wish me luck.
There has been much note taking, jottings and diagrams sketched. In an effort to take stock of where the story is I’ve been doing some analysis of what I’ve done so far.
‘But you should probably have done this before you started the first page Cam’ I hear all four of my readers cry from their respective rooftops.
Yes, I probably should but I’ve never written a full book before so I’ll chalk this one down to experience. I’m going through all the different characters and asking myself what they wanted at the start, how has this changed with events up to now and has their overall goal changed. It’s helping shape the next section of the book but also revealing some cracks in the foundations.
There now follows below some details about the main thrust of the story as far as the book is concerned. If you’re reading all this and planning on actually buying the thing once I get it finished (bless you) then you might want to skip it. Also, if you’re just plain bored of me going on about it then you might want to do the same.
Firstly, my policeman character is the first to discover the returning girl who has been thought to be dead for the last ten years. She actually goes to his house after discovering that her own family home is now an abandoned wreck. Her Mother is back in town, he is perfectly aware of this and yet he doesn’t go to tell her straight away. He actually keeps her locked in his house whilst he goes off to investigate what’s going on down the waterfront in the middle of the night. However, if his one past regret of his career is not finding this girl when she went missing and after telling her Mother that he would, then why exactly is he doing this?
My resolution to this is going to be suspicion. He’s a sceptic on all things alien/paranormal (much more Scully than Mulder) so therefore has a belief that this child isn’t what she says she is. He has a need for control so has to work out for himself what’s going on before the Mother gets involved. There will be a meeting between all off them but not right away. I like the tension of this kid almost being kept in the house against her will and breaking out herself later.
The second main question is why is the Mother even there? She’s not getting her daughter back as she’s been officially considered dead for a decade. She moved away because she grew tired of the persistent rumour floating around town that she’d killed her own daughter. She therefore hates the town and the people so why exactly has she made it back? Morbid curiosity? Regret? A need to reconnect with the past? I currently haven’t made that connection yet and her character is really suffering as a result.
This is only the start of it.
I’ll be note taking for the next few days and aim to get back on the wagon by Monday.
I have reached the 20,000 words mark. Rather conveniently this 20,049 word count has come right at the end of a chapter so it feels really good to stop at a fairly distinct point. I’ve deviated a fair bit from the chapter outline though and I’ve managed to create questions about the story that I had never considered beforehand. Perhaps I’ll take a short pit stop here and run through some of the main story to see where it’s veering of course and needs to be brought back in again.
I started planning for this book in January 2017. I started actually writing it in March. It’s taken just under three months to get to this stage. I’m thinking more and more than the original 75k marker I set for myself at the start might be a stretch for a story which was originally going to be a 90 minute movie. Maybe 60-65k may be more in line. Therefore I can say currently that I’m about a third of the way through and still feel fairly confident about it. If I get myself in gear a bit more then I reckon a first draft will be up and running at the end of October.
Nothing good ever comes easy.
This includes ideas.
It’s one thing to have an idea, to mull it over in the mind and keep refining it but the hard part is going through the process to take it from a single thought all the way to an actual ‘thing’ that people can watch, read or listen to. It takes a hell of a lot of effort in all cases and I strongly admire anybody who gets to their own individual finish line.
One such example happened a couple of weeks ago when I attended The Source Cafe in Carlisle for the double album launch from two local bands The Unsung and We Are Quasars. I’ll have to add some disclosure here and say that I’ve worked with Craig from The Unsung for a good few years now. Both bands actually had a gig at The Old Fire Station in Carlisle back in November. I was at that one too and both were sounding really good back then but the albums were still being worked on and tweaked at that stage. Tonight they were ready to go as evidenced by the pile of CDs on the merch table on the way in.
You should buy both albums. I know you’re probably thinking that I’m bound to say that because I know The Unsung. The truth is that I was always going to buy their album and We Are Quasars as well because I enjoyed listening to them so much back in November. The added bit to all this is the fact that both albums are brilliant and are well worth your time and money even if you’re not from Carlisle and don’t know anybody in either band. They stand solid in their own right. The Unsung make melodic music with a certain darker edge. They remind me a lot of Interpol and I mean that as a surefire complement. because I love Interpol. We Are Quasars sound a little bit like Muse before they became too concerned with how much stadium they could fit into their stadium rock. There’s a vein of anger floating through their songs. Not all out firing rage but the calculated, fine needle type.
You can listen to The Unsung here and We Are Quasars here. I suggest you do.
Why am I telling you all of this is a blog about writing? Well here’s the crossover. As I stood listening to both bands in a room which seemed to be getting hotter and hotter with each passing minute (the insulation is good for soundproofing but maybe not so great for getting any air into the place) a thought smashed into my head. Here’s two groups of people who have taken sounds that were raw and incomplete, put them together, arranged them and recorded them. Here they were, a few months later, playing the final versions and selling the physical result. Forget turning lead into gold, this is alchemy.
I was having a bit of a tough time with the book. The flow wasn’t quite there and nothing was really coming together. Not only was the music good, the company fantastic but it was also an evening when inspiration walked up to me and smacked me in the head the friendly kind of way. This collection of strange goings on and stranger people can be blended together and eventually there will be a final result for people to read. Regardless of the format it’s a very similar process behind it. If you’ve made an idea exist for everybody else to see then you deserve all the credit.
‘Support good people making good things’.
So I get back to the book.
The chapter from Hell is over, long live the next one.
Finally I’ve reached the end of a chapter that will probably be first on the list for future rewrites being as I was bored writing it so heck knows how dull it would be for anybody to read. On occasion the fact that I had originally thought of this as a feature film comes through and it results in sections when it all feel a bit too ‘visual’. Whilst this kind of stuff would look great up on screen, perhaps with some music over it, it doesn’t translate well to fiction. Having the character of the missing girl’s Mother return to the house she lived in when her daughter vanished is great in theory. I wanted her to go in thinking that she would connect with happier memories contained within this building. As her time there goes on however she discovers that the building is now in a state of near ruin and is covered in graffiti referencing the fact that most the townspeople had an idea she had killed her own daughter. The word ‘Murderer’ in painted across the front door in red letters.
Now comes the turning point of the story so far. In various dark corners of the house there are patches of what might look at first glance to be spider’s webbing. It contains small stone like pods in it though. Her Daughter, who unknown to her Mother yet has returned, has a small ring of these things just underneath her skin. The chapter kind of snaps into alien stuff fairly quickly.
In fact, here’s what I ended on.
Morag had to leave. She about turned and paced across the landing towards the top of the stairs. She gingerly went back down the steps, taking them as quickly as she could before putting her feet back in the hallway and pacing out of the front door. She navigated her way through the long grass of the front garden before taking a sharp turn out of the gate down the street. She didn’t want to look back any more, she warned this house to be forgotten now. If it crumbled into dust tomorrow, taking everything with it, then she’d need to prepare herself not to care.
In a dark recess under the stairs another pile of dust landed in the webbing below. If anybody had noticed it they would almost certainly have thought it could have been a spider’s web. Perhaps then they would have investigated further and discovered that the web was nothing like the thin, delicate thread of any arachnid. It was thicker and faintly blue. Gathered amongst the network were small, hard, light blue stones. Each of them pulsed and throbbed to an unheard of rhythm. One of the stones then fell from the strand it was held in and landed on the bare wooden floorboards. It then liquefied, oozing outwards as if reaching out for help. Before long it was like a tiny star, arms reaching out and pulling itself along bit by bit.
A second one soon followed.
Well it had to end on some kind of intrigue didn’t it? A woman wandering around a derelict house wasn’t exactly going to provide such kicks.
I’ve been occupied elsewhere recently, the book hasn’t had a lot of a look in for the last few days. I’ve either been working or preparing for the recording of a podcast episode we’re doing this Tuesday. Not helping this situation is the fact I seem to have a heavy cold for the past few days which I hope is in the process of leaving me alone now.
I’m grinding my way through this chapter whilst constantly thinking there will be far better on the immediate horizon. The character of the girl’s mother has no clear reason to return to the town. If her life was going so well in the city she moved to then why on Earth is she spending these few days going back to the place she couldn’t wait to see the back of. When I was planning all this at the start of the year this detail felt inconsequential but it’s become ever more critical the further I get into it. As such she’s currently just walking around the town and revisiting old places. It’s great by the fact I get to write about her memories and give a backstory that way but it’s also really bloody dull in places. It’s reflecting really badly on her character as well. She’s a pain to write at the moment and it’s part of the reason why I’ve stalled a bit.
I’ve done another small chunk tonight (about 200 words) which I started at around 10pm. I’ll get some more done tomorrow night as well but then it’ll be Thursday before I can have a good swing at it through the day. It’s time to get back to work.