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.
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.
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?
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.
The third rewrite (or rather the first proper one as the last one seemed to have boiled down to just getting chapters in the right order and cutting some of the ones that just didn’t go anywhere) has begun in full. I would have got it underway last Monday but it was my birthday so other things came to pass.
With this has come the first major ‘baby to die’ situation. Up until now I’ve always had the young girl go missing down a beach, being dragged into the sea waters by an alien creature. It made sense because that’s where the ship has crash landed and I loved the idea of a ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’ vibe.
The problem was actually getting my character there in the first place. She certainly leaves her house with her Mother telling her to get back as quickly as possible. She ends up meeting the shopkeeper who has something of an alien parasite in him and he convinces her to walk by the beach on the way home. This means she can get swallowed up and ‘kidnapped’ in time.
But it’s really awkward and clunky and less of a masterplan and more of hitting and hoping. It also means that in one chapter I go from the girl being in her house, to walking down the street, to the shop and then to the beach. It’s way too much and gets really dull.
Therefore I just decided she can still be taken by an alien presence in the actual shop itself. This previously human shopkeeper suddenly turns into something really not human and we go from there. Having just finished that chapter it does read much better and doesn’t quite feel as long and drawn out. It does however mean lobbing off entire sections of the later story which revolve around the beach location in a search for clues etc.
It’s something I’ll resolve once I get there.
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.
I’ve mentioned before how much this book sometimes suffers a bit from originally being written as a film script. It’s hit home how much this can be the case with Chapter 9.
As I’ve rewritten parts of this Anne, the missing girl in the story, starts aboard the alien craft before getting out, going back to her house which has jumped ten years into the future as far as she’s concerned and then she goes off to find the police officer. On film, where the idea of a scene can be put across fairly quickly, moving through three different areas would seem fine but writing this all down makes it feel stretched out beyond all belief.
The obvious answer is to just do what I’ve done before and split the chapters. My chapter count is already pretty high thought and it would probably leave what feels like two half chapters rather than full ones.
This first rerun of the book feels more like sorting out overall structural issues than actually fixing words.