Monthly Archives: May 2014

Writing reboot progress report, 31 May 2014

Today is my last writing reboot progress report. From tomorrow, I will stop blogging my writing every day and blog other things instead. For a start, I’m gonna take a well-earned rest tomorrow and return to a schedule which lets me take Sunday off.

I’ve definitely found this challenge useful. I’ve written every day for 30 days, for a start (I’m including today; barring some disaster which also prevents me clicking “publish” when I finish typing this blog post, I’m gonna write today). Across the month I’ve averaged 770 words a day, which is pretty good, I think. And more importantly, I’m happy with most of what I’ve written. There are a few things I know I need to rewrite, and a fair bit I cut along the way a day or two after I wrote it, but allowing myself the half hour or so before I start writing to think about what I’m going to write, what themes and goals I have for the scene, has made it a process which produces work I am, on the whole, happy with.

In June I think I’ll try for a weekly progress report here on the blog, but I’ll also start trying to blog about other stuff again too; I’ve been lax this year so far, I know. I’ve not done much reading so I won’t be reviewing any books any time soon (and what I’m reading at the moment is The Hitchhiker’s Guide, which I don’t feel qualified to review, which is sci-fi anyway, and which is hardly in need of more reviews anyway). Maybe a movie, I watch movies all the time on Netflix. Actually, no, I don’t. I watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scrubs and programmes by David Attenborough. Eh, I’ll find something to blog about.

Tonight I have been listening to I giorni, which has gotten me in the right mood, but I think I need something with more energy. So I’m listening to Now We Are Free from the Gladiator soundtrack, courtesy of Hanz Zimmer. Great music this.

Thoughts and Plans:

I need to tie up the argument, or, better yet, have Fiarra walk away from it rather than argue, leaving her friends to do whatever they want. That creates a bigger rift between them than if they make up and go for the perimeter walk together. So off Fiarra goes on her own, checking the boundary, looking behind sheds and so on, until she decides to take a rest in a small area of the gardens overlooking the sea, which Laik isn’t too impressed with when she finds Fiarra there because, unknown to Fiarra, it’s where Laik buried her former employer when the plague hit. So some fun times ahead, except not for Fiarra.

Starting writing 21:33.

Progress:

Finishing 22:07 with 867 words. Material covered as required, but I’ve got some thinking to do for where to take the story next.

Here’s the final graph for the month:

May writing reboot graph 3

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Writing Reboot progress report, 30 May 2014

So it’s the penultimate day of my challenge, and I’m procrastinating by making graphs. I’ve plotted my daily progress, in words, across the month, along with a running average that averages wordcounts over a seven day period, to give an idea of the general trend. Here it is:

May writing reboot challenge graph

Yay pretty graph! So I’ve got two spikes there when I was having good days, but the overall trend has been a gradual decline with quite a dive at the end there. Let’s see if I can pick that up, at least a little. That last running average point is 549.3 words. In order to keep it the same, I need to match my word count for 22 May, which was 729. So that’s my goal tonight. I’ve got a headache but I’m not gonna let that stop me. Not knowing where I’m going next might be a problem, though.

Thoughts and Plans:

I finished yesterday with Fiarra having told Siril and Deego about Teyt and Corun. Deego is starting to feel the magical power infusing the earth beneath his feet, just a hint of it, and he doesn’t quite catch on to what it is yet. I know what my medium term goals are: work on the fractious relationship between Fiarra and Laik, build a more friendly yet cautious relationship between Fiarra and Prentor, introduce cracks in Fiarra’s friendships with Siril, Deego (in particular), Teyt and Corun. I just thought of a good line for an argument between Teyt and Fiarra so I’m writing that down.

Okay, done. Don’t want to forget that in, like, four months time when I get to that bit (okay, maybe more like three weeks).

Anyway. Medium term goals. I will also need to build up Fiarra’s determination to escape, plans to do so, and her understanding of exactly what kind of a grip the Governor has on people, to the point that her escape plans start to morph into escape-so-I-can-join-the-rebels-and-bring-that-bitch-down plans. I guess though at the moment she’s still focused on Laik, seeing Laik as the antagonist of her story and the obstacle to her freedom.

Short term, now, there’s a thing. Fiarra’s going to want to find out information about the palace, go on walks around the place, find the gaps in the defences. If she can think this up during the festival, there’s the freedom afforded by the festival to allow her to explore a bit more, so there’s that. And it means Deego and Siril can come with her and I can feed in a bit more about Deego’s weird feelings he can’t explain but which are magical while I’m there.

Yesterday I considered including Prentor for a brief conversation. I’ll start with that – build their relationship, and use the conversation to start off that wedge between Fiarra and her friends, since Deego in particular isn’t exactly happy at seeing the former mine director, and Siril isn’t either. Then I’ll give Fiarra the idea to check the boundaries around the palace and see if there’s a simpler way out. Ooh then I can have Laik catch them wandering around the gardens.

And tonight I’m back to Brothers In Arms because I can’t stay away from Knopfler for long. I love how it starts with the rumble of thunder. I mean seriously, if music was capable of bringing someone to orgasm all by itself, it’s this track that’s gonna do it.

Starting writing 21:52.

Progress:

1002 words. Aw yeah, who’s the boss? Finishing at 22:31. Really got into it with Prentor, and then Fiarra and Deego arguing, first about Prentor, then about deer, because I followed where things took me and it gave me the chance to add a touch of worldbuilding (Fiarra doesn’t know what deer are, she’s never seen one, land mammals never reached the island til settlers arrives and they brought sheep and cattle and stuff, so aside from those, it’s all birds of various types and bats and insects.

In fact I’m gonna go back and add an answer to her question about what a deer is. That takes my word total to 1044. Nice. Here it is:

“No, but seriously, what’s a deer?” I asked.

Siril sighed. “It’s an animal like a really thin cow with horns that look like little trees, but without leaves. They live wild in meadows and woodlands in the north of the empire.”

So feeling good about today, and I didn’t even get to the perimeter inspection. That’s for tomorrow, I guess, once I’ve resolved the deer argument.

Ooh, and the updated graph:

May writing reboot graph 2

Check it. Running average went above 600 words for that last point there.

 

Writing reboot progress report, 29 May 2014

Another busy day, leaving me pretty tired again, though this time no work tomorrow and I’m half way through a Kopparberg so it might be okay.

I’ve also been a bit distracted this evening. Aside from learning German competitively on Duolingo (I’m getting a little obsessed now), I’ve also been thinking about another story I’ve worked on on and off over the last year or so but never got far with. And I know I shouldn’t let another story in when I need to focus on something, but maybe it is time I took a little break, gave myself some time to think, because right now I’m struggling. The scene I’m on is slow, I don’t have a good grasp of the characters and I don’t have much of an idea where things will be going in the next few pages. So maybe tonight just needs to be thoughts and notes, working out what I’m doing, and giving myself time to breathe. Because otherwise I just know that whatever I write will end up being completely rewritten at some point. It’s not progress in the sense that I’m not writing actual words in the manuscript, but it does mean that I’ll have words to write tomorrow.

On the other hand, there’s only two days left of this challenge, and do I want to stop now when I’m so close? Not really. So maybe I can manage a couple of hundred words.

Thoughts and Plans:

So far I’ve not been handling this scene too well. Lots of dialogue, not all of which is strictly necessary, no conflict. So I need to hurry it along a bit and see if I can’t move on to something a bit more exciting. The problem is, what is that exciting thing? I being to wonder if perhaps I did this bit too soon. Not that I know when else I could have put it. Here, though, is the saggy middle, the slow section where I lose direction. Perhaps my error wasn’t in this reunion, but in making things quite so simple and easy earlier, during the confrontation with Laik. Perhaps a blunter, less friendly Laik would have worked better, a Laik who still essentially says the same things, but in a more concise, slightly more antagonistic manner leaving Fiarra still very much convinced that Laik is the Enemy (yes, with a capital E), and have a situation whereby Fiarra is now working against Laik and with the goal of escaping with her friends, whereby those two goals come into conflict with one another because Fiarra lets her hatred of Laik blind her to the possibility of manipulating Laik to unknowingly assist in their escape.

I think that might be what the real problem is – and it might mean I have a lot of words to cross out and retry. Not exactly a prospect which fills me with enthusiasm. That could be a week’s worth of work discarded. But I guess if I want to bring the true story through, the story I need to tell, and move past this hump, that could well be a sacrifice that needs to be made right now.

I guess this is what being a writer is like. Good progress for days, before realising that good progress wasn’t so good after all. It’s not like I’ve not gonna back and changed things before. But I’m not sure I have the energy for it right now. Especially since I already went back on this confrontation once. I don’t want to be rewriting this bit over and over, and I hope I’m not blaming this confrontation for other problems I’m having down the line – like not knowing where to go next.

Maybe a simple edit will do, rather than a full rewrite. A little cutting, a few changes to word choices, the addition of some internal monologue about how Fiarra doesn’t believe Laik, and I can leave Fiarra’s hatred of Laik intact.

And yet that still leaves the problem of what next. I can finish the scene I’m in with Teyt and Corun having to get back to work and Fiarra, without any money, being chased out of the pub. But then what? I guess she’d report to Siril and Deego that they’re alive and well and working in a pub in the town. But until my next major plot point, I’ve not got a huge amount sorted out. Fiarra plans to escape. She gets caught by the Governor. But in between now and then? I guess I’ve got work to do on her relationship with Laik, not to mention her relationships with her friends – who ask whether it’s worth it trying to escape, since it’s high risk and even if they do succeed there are some advantages to being enslaved they won’t have outside Barrent, like buildings and beds and a reliable food supply. And then there’s the magical sub-plot, driving a wedge between Fiarra and Deego. I mean, I guess that’s what’s next – having put Fiarra back in contact with her friends, now she loses them in a different way. But that’s all thematic. Events are what trouble me.

Okay how about this: Fiarra leaves the pub and returns to the festival, where she finds Siril and Deego and reports the good news that Teyt and Corun are alive. Deego mentions that he feels weird, but Fiarra mostly ignores him. Free to enjoy the festival, they make the most of it. Perhaps they bump into Prentor doing the same, and Fiarra is far more willing to talk to him than Siril and Deego are.

Listening to Eden Roc tonight (after a couple of false starts while writing the above with White Horse and Ancora). Starting writing at 22:09, because I just spent 40 minutes writing the above.

Progress:

Stopping at 22:23 with 372 words. Stuff done. Words written. Sleep required. Tomorrow: planning further ahead.

Writing reboot progress report, 28 May 2014

Been a busy evening today so I’m starting a bit late. Maybe I’ll have time afterwards to finish my row on the crochet blanket I stopped working on when dinner was ready.

Thoughts and Plans:

I return to the joyous reunion with Teyt and shortly Corun. And here’s where I’m really worried about losing steam, because, sort of, goal completed. They’ve been found, after 40,000 words of looking for them. Okay so the whole group is still enslaved in various places around, but things are looking too rosy and I need to make sure Fiarra doesn’t rest on her laurels at simply having found them, but moves right on to the “get everyone free” plan. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for her to go for the more selfless approach and try to tackle the whole system of slavery, because that’s big, so for now she’s working towards an escape plan, and I’ll feed in and build up the “take down the Governor” goal gradually.

Progress:

278 words. About 15 minutes. I’m pretty drained, actually, and I don’t have a strong enough grasp on the voices and personalities of Teyt and Corun. I’ll refresh tomorrow and have another shot at it.

Writing Reboot progress report, 27 May 2014

Gods above I’m getting close to the end of the month now. It’s gone so quick.

You know what I love? Classic FM. I listen to it on the drive to and from work every day. Today, following a trip to the supermarket on the way home for some pear juice (or, as it’s sold, Kopparberg Pear non-alcoholic. I like the taste, okay? I got the booze version too) I got back into my car (which now that I think about it is due for a service next month, damn) and what should come on Classic FM but the Hobbit theme?

Now, I know in my review of those movies I was pretty down on them (well, not as down as on certain other films, *cough* 300: Rise of an Empire *cough* (I’ve got a lot of asides in brackets going here don’t I?)) but there’s no faulting the music. Or the music to The Lord of the Rings. Howard Shore was totally spot on with it all. Anyway, so that’s what I’m listening to tonight. I generally avoid this because it’s already so strongly associated with a different world, and a different type of world, to what I write that I worry it’ll be distracting, and perhaps it will be a bit, but because it’s so damn good I might pay attention to it instead of writing, not because of Middle Earth.

Oh god and then there’s Enya with May it Be. That’s far too distracting (in the so-good-I-have-to-listen way). I’ll put it in the Enya playlist where it won’t stand out so much.

See, I’m already distracted. And rambling. Time to put that energy into the novel.

Thoughts and Plans:

I left Fiarra, following a run-in with Roth, hiding behind a barrel adjacent to a pub. What I didn’t say yesterday is that this is the pub where Teyt and Corun work/ are enslaved. Hooray! Yeah so after a few minutes hiding, Fiarra’s gonna emerge, decide to stay off the streets for a bit and grab a drink in the meantime, whereupon she sees Teyt gathering up empties.

This is a reunion months in the waiting. There’s gonna be relief, joy, disbelief, more joy, and someone being annoyed his staff isn’t paying attention to customers. And hopefully plenty of that. I’d better get writing, it’s nearly bed time (don’t judge me, my alarm goes off at 6am).

Starting writing 21:55.

Progress:

Finishing 22:22 with 670 words. I didn’t get far into the reunion, I had some setup first, but I got as far as hugging and a bit of talk between Teyt and Fiarra. Tomorrow I’ll bring Corun into it. But 670 words in that time is pretty good, so it’s flowing reasonably well. Now if only I didn’t need half an hour first to get myself into the writing mood. I guess once this challenge is over that’ll be June’s goal – less time talking about writing, more time writing.

Writing reboot progress report, 26 May 2014

It’s amazing how a few notes of a track can bring back memories. I was going to start this blog post in a different way, talking about the relaxed day off work I’ve had (yay Bank Holidays), but then I started playing Ancora by Einaudi and all of a sudden memories of the time I went to Greece on a school field trip (the Classical Civilisation group) in 2006 came back to me. The day I remember with the greatest fondness was the day we went to Delphi. The air was so beautifully fresh, a big contrast to Athens, and at that altitude even in the blazing May sunshine it wasn’t too hot. It was one of the most serene, beautiful places I’ve ever been and certainly somewhere I would want to return to given the chance. Incredible ruins, some overgrown, and views I could gaze across for hours.

But there’s also a bad side to forming mental links between music and experiences. Another track by Einaudi, called Reverie, used to be a favourite – in fact I listened to it on my second trip to Greece, with university in 2011. But it was also the soundtrack to a novel I was writing at the time, one which crashed and burned so spectacularly that I fear to listen to Reverie any more.

Thoughts and Plans:

Today I need to continue with what I was working on yesterday, and hopefully move things forward. A few short snippets of stories, a couple of brief conversations in which Fiarra doesn’t engage with Deego, and then I’ll have them move on, having not seen their friends at the festival, with Fiarra searching the town alone while Siril and Deego remain at the festival in case their friends turn up.

Beginning writing at 21:21.

Progress:

Finishing at 21:58 with 786 words. It flowed reasonably well today, and I achieved my stated aims. I also added in an encounter with Roth, the guard from the mine and later the quarry who Fiarra has had a couple of run-ins already. I think I might give Roth a reoccurring role. She’s a bully who has it in for Fiarra so she makes a good minor peril to spice up otherwise slow-paced scenes, which that was turning into. I’m sure I can bring her back in later as a slightly bigger threat when I’m moving towards the end of the story.

Writing Reboot Progress Report, 25 May 2014

Books have been a bit of a theme of what I’ve been thinking about today. It’s the 25th of May, which is Towel Day and also the Glorious 25th of May. I started rereading the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy last night as a result; I don’t need to reread Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, I’ve read it about six times already, it’s one of my favourites, but I haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide since I first picked it up a decade or so ago.

Another book I’ve been thinking about today I also read about a decade ago. While Hitchhiker’s Guide is mostly gone from my memory in that time, with the exception of the main characters’ names and towels and the improbability drive, the other book I’ve been thinking about is one I have never forgotten because it is a very powerful, well written book. That book is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – a book which Education Secretary Michael Gove “dislikes” and has removed from the GCSE English literature syllabus on the basis that it was written by an author who wasn’t British (apparently British students can only learn lessons from British books, or something – which doesn’t bode well for our language teaching; I wonder if Latin will only be taught from inscriptions and documents written in Britain on the same basis).

For any readers who are not British, Michael Gove is on the podium for the most hated British politician, and possibly even at the top of it. By all accounts, he is an ideologue with no understanding of the teaching profession, the goals of education, or the realities of comprehensive schools (he was privately educated). This move of his to remove key texts from the English literature curriculum on the basis of not being British is incredibly unpopular. To Kill a Mockingbird is also affected.

I have thus purchased both Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird in protest over Gove’s meddling. It is my hope that if enough people in the UK do the same thing these books will shoot up the bestseller lists and thus send a clear message to Gove that his latest changes to British education are even less popular than the last – and to David Cameron that his Education Secretary is making him look bad. Well, worse.

Anyway, this has distracted me quite long enough – not just posting about this here but also reading threads on Reddit and tweets and things. I fear that getting into the right mood for writing after letting myself get worked up about how much of a colossal twat Gove is will be tricky. I mean, seriously, I know British politics are broken (don’t even get me started) but when Gove is one of the most unpopular people in Britain right now but we have no means to do jack shit about his stupid unpopular arbitrary ideas it is just so frustrating.

Okay, calm. Writing time.

Tonight’s music is I giorni from Einaudi. Again.

Thoughts and Plans:

With the scene essentially finished yesterday, now it’s time to move on. Fiarra meets up with Siril and Deego and they go looking for Teyt and Corun, at last. I need to be careful here that I don’t let things settle or slow, as would be all to easy now I’ve passed the big confrontation (which ended up being less big and less confrontational than I anticipated).

One of the key things I need to get into this scene is that Fiarra is no longer comfortable in Deego’s presence. She hasn’t dealt with her shock and indeed revulsion that he was involved in the murder of the dead guard, and she continues to not deal with it. I need to convey that she’s not really interacting with him or engaging with him without spelling it out, since Fiarra is the narrator and she’s not really aware of this reaction on a conscious level. She will be vague when responding to things he says, without looking directly at him, and never address him directly or by name, but rather speak to Siril as well when it is really Deego she is talking to, and ignore him when she is deliberately talking directly to Siril.

I also need to get in a bit of the island’s history. This is a festival of storytelling, so a few snippets of well-told history would not go amiss. Overheard stories as they move around the festival looking out for their friends.

Starting writing at 22:06.

Progress:

Finishing 22:26 with 591 words. Quite a lot for such a short session, but it’s late. My body clock is still on work hours, even though I’m three days into a four day weekend, and I struggle to stay awake late even when I get a lie in. I got into the festival, with a little Fiarra ignoring Deego and a touch of history. More of the same tomorrow.

 

Writing reboot progress report, 24 May 2014

Four day weekends are great. I had yesterday off work because it was my fiance’s birthday, and Monday will be a bank holiday, so I’ve had the freedom to do what I want today instead of all the weekly chores. I’ve mostly spent it crocheting – I made almost a whole scarf from scratch this morning and continued with a blanket this afternoon.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been quite so productive regarding the writing (or the German, for that matter). There were a couple of times today where I had some time available before something happened (dinner, the F1 highlights on the BBC) when I considered having a go at this scene I’ve been trying to write, but decided to crochet instead. Crochet is simple and easy. I’ve got yarn, I’ve got a pattern or a stitch, I just keep going with what I’m doing until there’s a line in the skin of my left forefinger where the yarn goes and I decide I should probably stop. Writing is difficult. Hence the procrastination.

Today’s music is CN Lester’s album Ashes. The title track and a couple of others are available on Soundcloud, if you’re interested. They’re good.

Thoughts and Plans:

I’ve crossed out everything I wrote yesterday. I’m not deleting it, in case there’s a line in there I decide later I want to keep, but it’s got the strikethrough on Word. The problem was that it became a big info dump. What Laik believes, her history, what the Governor is doing and why. That’s a problem, because it’s not in Laik’s character to be that open and because it’s pretty boring, big paragraphs of exposition.

What I need to do is cut it right down and work out the essentials. Laik isn’t going to spell things out for Fiarra, she’s going to assume Fiarra can fill in the gaps herself and she’s not going to go talking about her difficult childhood. I need to have her give a far briefer, less involved explanation, then bring it back to where the argument began: with Laik asking Fiarra why she was snooping. Then I can bring things to the resolution of the argument and start things moving in the direction I need them to move, which is to have Fiarra realise there’s more depth to Laik than she gave her credit for.

I need to start building up to the next key plot point afterwards, but I’ll worry about that once I’ve got this one done. And I need to leave scope for Fiarra to learn more details and motives later. For now, if I keep quiet about why Laik really supports the Governor’s goals – to keep Narricol out of the island’s affairs – then I can leave this cause morally ambiguous, and have Fiarra wondering if it’s worth it. This will allow me to keep Fiarra viewing her own cause as a black and white thing – bring down the Governor, end slavery – rather than wondering if it’s the lesser of two evils.

For now, though, I have clear goals for what I write next:

  • Laik gives a brief explanation of her goals and the Governor’s goals
  • Laik asks Fiarra what she was doing again
  • Fiarra tells her – she was looking for records of her friends
  • Laik tells Fiarra that such records don’t exist, but she can look in person around town.
  • Fiarra is surprised that things went better than expected.

Simple enough. Starting writing 21:36.

Progress:

Finishing at 22:05 with 474 words. I’m much happier today with what I’ve written, and I’ve checked off my bullet points above. It’s a more positve end to things, with the hints of the Governor’s and Laik’s motives without spelling it out. I can work on that later, by developing Fiarra and Laik’s relationship through debates on their positions on various issues later on.

Writing reboot progress report, 23 May 2014

Today’s music is White Horse by Phamie Gow. It’s a beautiful piece of music – unfortunately not on Youtube, though another of my favourite tracks by her is:

Thoughts and Plans:

When I opened up my Word document, I realised that yesterday, I actually set things up fairly well. The question I was worried about finding an answer to isn’t a problem. So I’m gonna get writing.

Starting 21:05

Progress:

Finishing 21:42, with 674 words. I’m not so happy with what I’ve written today. Too much information, not enough story. I’ve had Laik dumping a whole load of background information and I’m not happy with how I’ve written it at all. The argument is practically over, now it’s all Laik telling Fiarra why things are the way they are and how shit the Narricol empire that used to own and run the island penal colony actually was. Too much info dumping, and not really in character for Laik, who is usually less talkative, particularly about herself. I think I’ll cross it all out tomorrow and have another shot at it after I’ve had time to think about where I want to take this confrontation.

Writing reboot progress report, 22 May 2014

I mentioned the other day that I don’t much think about the story when it’s not my writing time. While this “out of sight, out of mind” approach is great for the day job – which I definitely don’t want to bring home with me – it does mean I get to open my novel document of an evening and come across a question I don’t know the answer to, because I worked out how to kick off the confrontation, but not how it would go from discovery to escalation to all out shouting match.

Also, finding suitable music for this scene is not an easy job. Do I want calm or not? What sort of mood? I’ve got something on to cover the gap until I start writing, though, so maybe I’ll get a better idea while I work out what I am writing.

Thoughts and Plans:

Yesterday I finished my marathon effort with Laik walking in on Fiarra snooping, and asking what she’s doing. Now I need for Fiarra to answer that question. The difficulty is how. I think I’ll have Fiarra lie unconvincingly, and Laik call her out on it. At some point in this discussion I need them to argue about Fiarra’s status in the palace and whether Laik has done her a favour or not, so I’ll need some sort of transitional comment which doesn’t look too conspicuous.

An early consideration Fiarra will make is that, having been caught, she’s crossed the line too many times. She thinks she’s destined for the mine, and decides there’s no point in holding back now because how much worse can it get anyway? She’s also thinking about a way to escape. She needs to stall Laik until she has an opportunity to make a dash for it. And it’s during the stalling, things can’t get any worse so I might as well shoot my mouth off bit that Fiarra gets into the argument, disliking Laik’s responses, and forgets the escape plan to have it out. Yeah. That sounds about right.

Started about 21:30 ish.

Progress:

Finishing 22:16, with 729 words. Good progress through the confrontation, things are starting to come out. But I’ve gone and written myself into a bit of a corner – that subplot with Laik being out all night has come back to bite me. It was useful for about a paragraph there, then it turned against me. So I’m going to have to work out where to go with that next tomorrow.