Progress Report: One Million Words, March 2016

March’s numbers ended up being only slightly more than February’s: 20,335. The month ended up a little slow due to a few busy days with limited writing time (on the plus side, I had a great time seeing some live comedy last night). My March daily average was therefore 656 words. Though I did have a few days over 1,000.

That brings my total to 175,158/1,000,000 words, or 17.5%.

Most of March’s words were on Horrible Monster. I’m working my way through it now. I also spent a few days on something else, a short piece that doesn’t have a title.

Horrible Monster

I’ve got well into the story now, with many of the key elements introduced. A lot has changed. I do worry it’s rushing forward a bit, that perhaps I’ve crammed in too much – too many answers and resolutions in particular.

I read an article recently about question arcs – a means by which suspense can be maintained, preventing a “saggy middle”, by putting forward questions the reader wants answered, reminding them of those questions occasionally, and ultimately approaching the answers a little at a time.

I have not mastered this technique.

But I am aware of where things are moving too quickly, so that’s something. I can make notes about what things need to be changed and then write as if they have been, or I can cross passages out and pick up from where I’m reasonably content with.

Going into April I’m going to have to step it up a bit, since I’ll be doing Camp NaNoWriMo and aiming for 30,000 words. Also – fun fact – I’ll be picking up learning French via Duolingo again, every single day (or at least, that’s the plan; I do not vouch for the day after my birthday, which is this month).

I’ve not being doing what I learned in November was useful to do: spending 5 minutes making notes about where the scene is about to go before I actually start writing it. So I should really pick that up again, especially with Horrible Monster not quite going as planned.

Where I am right now is that I’ve passed a key early scene where quite a lot changes. It’s an instigating moment, where a simple mystery becomes a dangerous adventure, where alliances begin to change and where my protagonist Adelyn’s eyes are opened to the true scope of what she’s involved in.

Which is great, but now I’m not sure where to take it. I’ve been waffling the last couple of days, tying everything up in conversations which feel out of place, too intimate for where the characters involved are in their interactions with one another. I need to move things forward. The problem is that it’s like stepping onto the train at Birmingham New Street Station – there’s quite a gap to mind. So I need to step carefully. For tonight’s writing (not yet started, argh argh) I’ll consult my notes and write some more to work out what I need to do.

This writing thing is tough sometimes.

The other project

There were a few days this month when I worked on a different project. Like quite a lot of my stories, the seed for it was in a dream. I stripped out all the nonsense (bright orange football shirts, two armies facing each other over a garden fence, me attempting to pack all of my belongings at the back of one of those armies so that I could run away because I was armed with a pencil instead of a sword like everyone else). I’m not quite sure it’s there, but in a few weeks I’ll take another look at it and see what I can do with it. Unfortunately, it involves a time travel element, which rules it out from submission to quite a few magazines. It’s not exactly something I can cut out, so oh well on that count. Maybe I’ll get a Wattpad account at last and post it there, once it’s done.

Something interesting has happened with this story already, though, which gives me ideas about how to change its next draft. Initally, and partly because I am currently reading a book largely set locally (The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift – Morville being a village just outside Bridgnorth here in Shropshire, UK) I decided to name locations and characters with bastardisations of local places, as if set in a parallel Shropshire. The nation the story was set in was called Salobia, from Salop, an old name for Shropshire; a character’s name was Ludd, after Ludlow; a nearby town was called Stonebridge, after Bridgnorth (which does in fact have a medieval stone bridge).

As I continued to read this book, though, I have learned a little more of local history. There really have been battles in and around Bridgnorth, as part of the English Civil War. I knew that Bridgnorth was fought over, defended by the Royalists, surrendered after the Parliamentarians started digging underneath the castle, and rendered no longer defensible by the subsequent demolition with gunpowder of the castle. But I was unaware of some of the other activities in and around the town, beyond just the castle and this particular event. The activities preparing for and following those battles have involved a fair bit of the same kind of destruction as I envisioned for Stonebridge.

When I wrote Ailith’s Gift, I set it in a faximile of Wroxeter at a point after the Romans departed. I called the town Uricon (as did A E Housman in his poem On Wenlock Edge the Wood’s in Trouble, poem 31 from A Shropshire Lad – derived from its Latin name, Viruconium Cornoviorum) and the Wrekin I refered to as The Old Hill (not an impossible title for it, given it was an Iron Age hillfort before the Romans turned up). I wonder if I might do the same with this story. I’d have to research a little more and move a few things around, but in essence the plot could remain intact, with the story ending up as an alternative local history in a parallel world with magic.

I like the idea of that, not just for this story but also for future concepts – pick an event in local history, bring in a magical element, see how it might be different. Obviously there would be a lot more to it than that, but it’s something to think about.

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