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.
I can’t write when I ain’t feeling.
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.
Today was a good day.
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 developed something called the ‘three location rule’. When this book was going to be a film it was quite possible for one character to move from one location, to another and then a third fairly quickly. When I tried to write all that into a chapter it came across as really cramped.
It read a lot like ‘Arrive at location one, write description, action, move to second, describe surroundings, action, move to third…’. As such it was terrible so the new rule is a maximum or two locations in any one chapter.
I originally had the Mother in her house realising that her daughter had not returned home after many hours, she then went to the local pub to ask around and she then ends up at the police station reporting it. Now it’s just the first two, the police interaction will be another chapter. This does mean I have a whole ream of text currently homeless and floating around the file but we’ll patch it in later.
The next two chapters were ones I’d already built up from scratch in the last rewrite and they’re not too bad as a result. With this in mind, as of this afternoon, I’m about a third of the way through this rewrite.
I might watch some Doctor Who tonight as a celebration.
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.
I had a few days away, I meant to take my laptop and do some writing whilst I wasn’t home but it didn’t happen. I was staying with the in laws and it may have looked slightly rude if I just put my computer down on the dining table and ignored everybody else whilst I worked away.
As such I’ve only just got underway again tonight and, to my dismay, realised that I had stopped right before a really tough section. It’s the first meeting of the police officer and the Mother of the missing child ten years after the fact. There was a simple note from my read through right after all this that simply says ‘This conversation feels really forced’. In a way it’s supposed to as it’s both characters reacquainting themselves with each other but realising they’re still not seeing eye to eye even after all this time. The entire thing felt really exposition heavy though, as if subliminally I’d taken this opportunity to dump a whole ton of facts down.
Therefore I’ve carved it up and cut it down a lot. She is trying her level best to ignore him and he holds out an incredibly pathetic olive branch that he thinks might just save the situation. It doesn’t and she leaves the scene wondering why exactly the ever thought this town could ever change. In draft one they just seemed to be exchanging pleasantries.
It works better but I’m not quite deleting that note just yet.