It’s March 4th then. Two years to the day since I started to sit down and write an opening chapter about devil trees and a strange taxi journey through small town Scotland. Apart from a gap between September 2017 and March last year it’s been the thing that has pretty much taken up most of the time writing. It’s taken this long to get something of a second draft up and running.
As I said in my last blog entry I wanted to get a couple of other loose ends out of the way before I started another rewrite. I’m glad that I’ve managed to do both.
If you’re into video games then I’ve started doing a podcast with my son in which we sit in our kitchen and spend half an hour chatting about them. We’ve tried to keep each episode below 45 minutes just to keep them and it’s usually around playing some older titles and him smashing my rose tinted view of them. We’re two episodes in and the results are here. You can hear Kyle being really enthusiastic and me sounding like an old man in comparison.
I also write about wrestling as part of the podcast I’m involved with called The Conquistabores. My latest article is about Survivor Series 1998 and it can be found here.
Now that all that’s out of the way it’s time to sit down with a notebook in hand and check this latest draft.
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.
Was I not writing the other day about not getting bogged down in writing new chapters from scratch during this first rewrite? What have I spent most of today doing?
Indeed dear reader, I’ve been doing a new chapter.
Well it’s not completely new, it’s the second half of the chapter I split up the other day. It’s the first major description of the alien being (who still had the tree references remaining until I removed them today) and as a result of this being half a previous chapter it didn’t feel anywhere near long enough so I’ve been adding bits to it with descriptions of his body and voice. When we meet him here his body is beat up after a crash landing and he’s breaking apart on the beach. It’s fine though, he’s about to get a brand new one.
Occasionally it’s a matter of working outwards from what I’ve got and I got really into this one today so stuck with it. Anything else I’m going to come back to later has a red font running through it. Currently the draft looks like something I had in school as a result.
I’m waffling now and it’s getting late.
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.
I got to a point when I needed a brand new chapter. In the previous draft my alen was kept secret, hidden away in the shadows until about 60-70% of the way through when he revealed himself. It makes far more sense to have him pop up earlier though so his story has a bit more time to bed in as the book goes on. So it means writing a whole new chapter five from scratch as Pilot recovers from his crash landing on Earth.
But the problem became that I was stuck writing this new part and not getting on with rewriting all the other part I had to place in somewhere. The best feeling when rewriting is taking whole wads of text from the older version, cutting, pasting and then seeing the word count bump up another three thousand in seconds. There’s nowhere near as much staring at blank pages going on. It’s a bit of a downward bump to come back to that now.
I’m currently thinking of just putting the words ‘Blah, blah, alien’ in red letters on the page before skipping it for now and getting on with editing.
There’s at least a couple of characters in the book that have changed a fair bit since they were first written down on a page eighteen months ago. Robert has gone from comedic relief to being one of the main cogs in the entire story for example. The other big change is Anne, the daughter who goes missing. Originally I had her down as about ten or eleven years old. This was partly because it’s old enough to take an active part in the story but also because it was the age of my son at the time of starting writing the book. It seemed like a no brainer and a fairly easy route forward.
It really wasn’t.
As the story went through the first draft I quickly came to the conclusion that eleven is far too young for the purposes of this story. She needs to be a bit more self sufficient in order for this to work. Any younger and she’d just be following along. Her age changed about halfway through the first draft to make her more like fifteen. The hardest part of this is to get her dialogue right. It’s apparently really easy to make teenage characters automatically sound sulky or aloof. She does have a little bit of that in her, she’s spent a decade and a half growing up in a dead end Scottish town, but I really don’t want her to spend all this time being in a stereotypical sulk. She’s the main driving thing in charge of this whole story after all.
It’s a difficult balance to get right.
No progress on the book today but there is a very good reason. I’ve spent all day stressing over a five hundred word personal statement for an application. It’s not for a job but it’s more for this.
I tripped up on this on Twitter the other night thankfully. I am indeed a Dumfries and Galloway based writer (I was even born here) and I am indeed halfway through a rather large writing project. With that in mind some professional guidance would be very much appreciated.
I had to get over my usual problem of a voice in my head telling me that I need not bother because I’m probably not what they’re looking for anyway. I’m writing a hokey science fiction book with a Scottish sense of humour in it. The doubter in me said that they’d probably want something deadly serious. I was better not bothering, it would be a waste of time.
But that’s the part that’s spent a good few years in control and got me bugger all.
So I’m entering this regardless of if they want hokey Scottish science fiction or not.
Because they can just say ‘No’ right?