Midnight In A Perfect World

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.

The TV Static Grey Sky

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.

You Can’t Buy Valour From A Vending Machine

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.

Register Personas

Conjuring up entire backstories of characters and inserting them into chapters is probably the most difficult part of this rewrite. My police officer was causing a bit a bit of trouble by the fact it wasn’t clear how he had ended up in a small town rather than the big city he started with. What exactly made him leave? Why wouldn’t he stay among the big smoke?

The simple answer is blood.

Or rather his inability to handle it.

I’ve given him hemophobia and made sure that most of his first few jobs in the city involved gruesome murders. The sight of such horrors has made him vomit in the nearest sink. He was then packed off to a quiet job by those above him.

I’m not really sure if this works as an excuse for him being here, it seems to much like he’d just leave the police all together but I’ve found that all of my main characters are running from something so it fits into the overall scheme. I seem to have given them all strange little faults.

Missed Four Stations

Questions I get on a few occasions lately.

“What’s the book about?”.

So I tell them. It’s usually followed by…

“What’s the ending?”.

To which I do not answer, instead suggesting they might be interested in buying the final thing if they want to know that badly.

This then leads to…

“So are you publishing this then?”.

The answer would obviously be ‘Yes’ but I’m not sure exactly how yet. I figured long ago that I’d be far better off with actually getting the book itself done before I started looking at avenues to bring it to an audience. I actually Googled ‘Self publishing a book’ tonight as I was making dinner and it’s been something of an eye opener.

The main thing I can gain from it is that every single result I seemed to clock on suggested that self publishing was the greatest thing ever, that traditional publishing as we know it is dead and that it’s the easiest thing in the world to do as long as you give them $60.

I don’t really think that any publishing house or agent will want to touch this book. It’s not because it’s bad but more because I don’t think many places deal with science fiction anymore. I don’t really want to spend years sending out manuscripts, then wait around more and then get rejected.

Self publishing seems the way to go but then a lot of that just seems to be throwing it into a huge pile over at Amazon and watching it sink in the quagmire at 99p a go.

It’s still early days and I’m really not in a position to make any concrete plans about it now but does anybody have any experience of going down the independent publishing route? Any words of advice out there?

Turning Wood Into Canoes.

‘Alien blabber’.

Those were pretty much the only words that I had at the start of chapter four. In the original first draft my alien wasn’t really revealed until about 60% of the way through the story. Whilst this did mean there was something of a strange mystery running through the first two thirds it did border on being slightly ridiculous.

It pretty much went ‘Missing child, missing child, MISSING CHILD…oh yeah, aliens’.

Which feels ‘off’.

This chapter is the one that supposed to introduce this whole idea much sooner so it doesn’t feel quite as jarring. This does mean that the last chapter is very much set in small town Scotland before this one goes off into other planets. This also means writing out some rather wonderful sci-fi babble which is something I was trying to avoid to begin with. Thankfully it’s not that much and it’s not something that has a huge bearing on the story. It did mean I had to sit there and make up names for different star systems though.

The Tanzar Gate has a nice ring to it.

Moderate Elemental Powers

Eleven chapters down, many of them with extra notes at the side in red font to give me a later heads up about bits that will need fixing. It’s full of things like “Would actual humans talk like this?” and “She was damp in the first draft, now she’s completely dry”.

Context is everything.

Whilst it’s not readable to the outside world at this time there are fleeting lines and maybe a couple of paragraphs when it reads like I really want it to. It’s descriptive, it’s darkly comic and it buzzes along.

Then it slips back into the same old and dull formula.

But those small moments are the charm.

Back To The Party

Oh man.

I seem to have made the drastic mistake of leaving the rewrite mid chapter back in November. As such I’ve spent the last hour looking between the old and new file and wondering where I kick off again. I seem to have departed the whole thing for Christmas around about the time a young girl gets hauled into the sea by an alien.

This was not a good idea at all.

The section of the book describing all of this in the first draft is wonky. I seem to spend too much time describing the same thing over and over so it’ll need cleaned up afterwards. I had to write a fair chunk of it off the top of my head this afternoon so it reads okay…ish. It’s probably not as good as a pivotal part of the book should be.

The March 4th 2019 two year anniversary date for a complete second rewrite might still be on though.

Pittenweem Harbour in Fife, Scotland. Pretty much the template for the harbour area in my fictional town. Just imagine an alien living under the water.

Reluctantly Crouched At The Starting Line

Not much rewriting done over the last few days. This is mainly due to the sudden realisation that Christmas is upon us and I hadn’t started any shopping yet. Rather than staring at Word I’ve instead been online shopping. I might be able to fit a little bit in tonight if I can tick some more people off my list of ‘to buy for’.

In the meantime though I thought, seeing as it got rejected, I’d put up the 500 words personal statement that I wrote to apply for the mentorship scheme. Was it far too over the top? Was the metaphor strained and not really needed in the first place? Did I come across like a raving mad man? Dear reader, all these questions are for you to reach your own conclusions on.  

It’s almost like the feeling of accidentally getting off the train at the station one stop before the one you intended. You know where you want to be, you’re on the right line to get there but you’ve somehow ended up in a place that wasn’t part of the original plan.

I was fourteen when I decided I wanted to be a writer.  During a meeting with the careers advisor at  Annan Academy I’d brought it up as a possibility and was quickly told that there wasn’t much call for that in Dumfries and Galloway’ before being handed leaflets about working in Chapelcross Power Station.

I didn’t give up.

I left school and went to study Media Production at Carlisle College of Art and Design (later renamed Cumbria Institute of the Arts). Whilst there I wrote short films and held screenings in local venues due to a lack of YouTube at the time. My final project on the degree course was a film about a self-help group who meet over the internet. It was nominated for an award in 2004 from the Royal Television Society. It did not win.

I didn’t give up.

Upon graduation and realising that fame and fortune wasn’t coming to me the instant I left college I got a job working in an opticians.What I thought was going to be a line of work I’d be doing for about six months has ended up being thirteen years. Whilst ordering contact lenses and measuring varifocals during the day I have continued to write at night. Projects done during this time have included a short play which was performed in a theatre bar in Carlisle and a short film that was screened around Europe including at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.

I haven’t given up.

My latest project in a science fiction book based in smalltown Scotland (being from Gretna I have a fair bit of experience in small town Scotland). Beginning in March 2017 I’m now onto a second rewrite. This is also the first time I’ve ever tried to write a book. A mentorship would enable me to work towards getting the book into a far more presentable state. I would certainly benefit from the guidance and advice on offer so I could move further towards completion and then publication. Having spent all this time working onit alone it would be great to get another angle on my work so far.

All of this would hopefully help me move further down the line and off the station I seem to have found myself at in the last few years.

Glitched Out Boats

Okay, this one might get a little bit over thought. I was going to sit down and bullet point this entire entry out but I was going through the stages of denial in the space of about ten minutes whilst trying to eat my lunch today. It’s probably going to be a winged out chain of thought. It might also sound really like I’m complaining but that ain’t really the case.

I was in the queue for my lunch today having decided to escape work for a while. Whilst waiting for coffee my phone buzzed in my pocket having finally decided it was in a place where the internet existed. An envelope icon appeared in screen from the Yahoo app so I flicked it open.

Email confirmation had arrived, I didn’t get onto the Dumfries and Galloway Mentorship scheme this year.

As a result I was mentally spun out for a good few hours this afternoon. Which is great when your work involves being welcoming for members of the public. If I could have just gone and sat under a table somewhere I would have. As it stood I processed contact lens orders instead. At least that was constructive.

At first I was angry, the certain feeling of ‘How bloody dare they!’ flooded in. I put a fair chunk of time and effort into the application and genuinely had a battle with myself to shut up the inner voice saying it wasn’t going to be worth it anyway. I hadn’t sent the documents off after giving up and saying ‘It’ll do’. I’d tweaked them and edited them to give me the best shot I could possibly make.

Then I calmed down and started to think about things a little bit clearer. Also, I’d had something to eat by this time which probably helped.

Would getting onto this scheme have been essential to getting this book done? Not really, it would have been nice and been small justification for spending this long on the thing over the last eighteen months but it’s not as if getting onto this was the cornerstone.

Does it alter the overall aim? Not in the slightest.

They overriding thing it took me so long to shift today was the fact that this was the first time that a section of the book had been read by somebody else bar me and it had been found lacking. This thought was still battering me around my head as I was driving home this evening. To turn this around into something of a positive I had to tell myself that I’m only on draft two. This book will get better and I’m damned sure I have the ability to do that. It’s a slow process which there ain’t a shortcut for but it is getting there. It’s a process which is happening right now.

By the time I’d pulled into my front drive I had pulled the positive out of it. It’s going to get done some way or another regardless of any setbacks along the road.