Tag Archives: daily

Progress Report: One Million Words, week 5

This week I’ve written 3,145 words – a little less than last week – and I’ve worked on a few different things as I’ve been trying to find my next project.

My current total is 14,330/1,000,000, or 14.3%.

Day-by-day summary

Monday: 388 words

Tuesday: 119 words

Wednesday: 573 words

Thursday: 624 words

Friday: 442 words

Saturday: 637 words

Sunday: 362 words

Continue reading Progress Report: One Million Words, week 5

September (not quite) Daily writing 21

Yesterday I procrastinated and did not write. I did maths puzzles instead. Also crochet (I have finished a second baby blanket, but for sewing in the ends which is the least fun part of crochet, and it looks really good and I’m very happy with it and soon I will start another one using green and purple.)

Anyway. So part of the reason I procrastinated the writing yesterday is that this is where the bit that I got stuck with last time starts. It’s the “Fiarra is a servant” section. The underdeveloped middle. Still a long way from the next climactic major plot point, but having run out of the steam that came from the last one. It’s in danger of being downright boring if I don’t do it right. So I need to work out how to do it right, and that’s never quite as much fun as actually writing it. That’s the hard work part of writing (well, that and the bit where I do it every single day.)

The thing is, I don’t want it to feel like filler. It can’t be The Great Divide, to use an analogy to Avatar: The Last Airbender. It can’t be the bit that a potential stage adaptation (as sourced from such individuals as a particularly knowledgable cabbage merchant) goes “Meh, let’s skip it” at.

There are important things I will need to introduce in this section of the story. Fiarra has a lot to learn about Laik, Prentor, the Governor, the town of Port Barrent, and what’s being built there. In this section, between where I am now and the next major plot point (the Escape), Fiarra’s relationships with various other characters are going to change dramatically – most notably, her relationships with Laik and with Deego. She’s going to build new relationships and find old ones. She’s going to take risks to find out about people and places.

But all that is still pretty vague in my head. How am I going to show the changing relationships? What is Fiarra going to learn, and how, and under what circumstances? What clues will she miss? What plans will she make? How will she make those plans – when will the ideas come to her and how will she develop them through to a fully formed plan ready to be put into practice?

I guess it starts with the old plan: find friends, rescue friends, go a long way away. That’s still plan A, but to put it into action Fiarra now needs a lot more. And she’s learned from her mistake: she’s not going to rush in unprepared again.

When I have a big project I need to work on, I struggle, initially, to know where to start. There always seems like so many different things to do, and it’s hard to prioritise them and easy to do the little easy things first. For Fiarra “escape” is a pretty big undertaking, especially if she is doing it all by herself. So her first action would be to find out where her friends are and try to speak with them – get their ideas, their knowledge and their support. But I think, upon finding out what they have to say, she’d be disappointed. Siril would say it’s better to be a slave in the laundry than in the mine. Teyt would advise against looking for trouble, and suggest waiting for an opportunity to present itself instead of taking risks. Corun would be all for making the most of what they’ve got – with an opinion that mirror’s Teyt’s, though perhaps a different idea of what kind of opportunities he might grasp. Deego is a little more hotheaded, more inclined to fight, but he’d side with the others in the end – Teyt in particular, whom he hero-worships.

I guess that covers the medium term. But the short term. Today’s writing, if I ever get to it. I honestly don’t know. I guess a tour of Laik’s rooms, but it just sounds so incredibly dull and I don’t particularly care, and if I don’t care, would a reader care? It doesn’t seem likely. But I’ve got to get past this to get to the fun parts. So how can I make a tour of Laik’s rooms and Laik explaining to Fiarra what her duties will be more exciting? I suppose some commentary from Fiarra, silently taking in what she sees and hears, thinking about how she can use that information in petty ways to make things more difficult for Laik. She’d think of ways she can do her tasks in a way that makes Laik annoyed – the task is done, as ordered, but not to her satisfaction. In the old version of the story (and this hurt me to write), Fiarra tore pages from the most thumbed book on Laik’s bookshelf, screwed them up and hid them: a way to disrupt Laik’s enjoyment in a small but impactful way. I had plans for this to come back and bite Fiarra later that I never got to write; well, now I can write it.

I guess I’d better have a go at this scene and not waste any more time writing about writing.

Starting 20:53.

Stopping 21:37. 894 words. Not so much with the spiteful commentary, mostly just description and a little dialogue. And it was dull, as predicted. But that’s over now and I can move on tomorrow and make it more interesting when I come back to edit.

September Daily Writing 20

Alright, so I’ve learned there’s a programme on the Beeb at 9 I want to watch (Lost Kingdoms of Central America with the wonderful Jago Cooper) so tonight’s session is (a) early and (b) not gonna catch up for Friday and Saturday. I’ve also put on some top John Williams movie soundtracks to listen to during this session – the energetic ones.

So yesterday I’d just got to the bit where Laik comes in. I realise that quite a lot of the story so far can be described as “Fiarra in a cell, talking to Laik”, but that’s just about to change. Temporarily, at least. In this scene, Laik will explain the situation to Fiarra: the Governor’s plan, and the Governor’s latest orders, namely that Fiarra has to work for Laik now, since Laik apparently likes Fiarra so much (as far as the Governor, slightly sarcastically, can tell). Of course, Laik isn’t the type to reveal all or let her guard down, so Fiarra is not going to learn everything. What she does learn, though she’s not going to be happy about – but there are threats in place to keep her docile.

So, as Jurassic Park’s theme tune just starts to pick up, I’m making a start at 20:09.

And finishing at 20:49. 673 words.

Objective achieved. And so begins what I fear could be a slow section of the story; tomorrow’s task will then be to work out how to keep things moving – how to make things difficult for Fiarra, what goals to give her, what discoveries she will make, what obstacles she will face.

It’s a good thing I’m writing this story as a novel. It’d make a really bad comic, with all these conversations from cells. Maybe my next project will be something more visual, something designed to be a comic. And it couldn’t hurt to take up the drawing again.

Right, time to learn about civilisations I’d never heard about before, presented excellently by Jago Cooper on the BBC. Lovely.

September not-quite-daily writing 19

Okay I skipped Friday and Saturday. It’s been a busy weekend. I didn’t think I’d manage tonight either, but plans changed and now I’ve got a bit of time – enough time to get today’s session in. I’ll try and catch up on Friday and Saturday’s lost time during the week ahead.

On Thursday I left the story in the holding cells under the barracks, with Fiarra learning a little about the others in the same situation. But I don’t want their conversation to drag on too long, so I’ll have a change of guard before things get too far, with the new guard  actually enforcing the “no talking” rule. Then it’ll be a long, silent wait until things start happening, because everyone else is busy with the festival. But come evening, Laik will make her return, and the other two will be taken away to start their new lives as slaves on the wall.

So, starting 19:55.

Finishing 20:45. 941 words. Finishing the conversation and filling the time gap in between took up most of that, with Laik only arriving at the end of it. I’ll probably have to cut a fair bit of the filler when I come through again but for now it’ll do. Tomorrow I’ll be on to what actually happens with Laik.

September Daily Writing 18

Yesterday I left the scene right before Fiarra was spared death, as the crowd shouted for her to die. I guess I like leaving cliff-hangers for myself? Honestly, though, I remain really pleased with what I wrote yesterday. It’s so much more powerful than the briefer version I wrote on Tuesday. Now I need to move on. The noose comes off, Fiarra is led away from the crowd and back to the barracks cells with the other two who survived, for holding until the festival is over. I’m definitely gonna make that guard character more important too. Maybe part of the internal revolution I’m planning a way down the line. Anyway. So back in the cells Fiarra chats with the other two “criminals” and finds out their crimes have been exaggerated too, and they were targetted by people who just didn’t like them in positions of authority. Then the other two get taken away and the guard is told to wait, as Laik comes at last to speak to Fiarra.

I’m starting late tonight so I’d better get started. 21:33.

Finishing 22:20. 809 words. Didn’t get to Laik turning up but covered a fair bit of ground.

September Daily Writing 17

So I’m just over half way into September and in that time I’ve written over 11,000 words on my manuscript (including bits I later deleted). By some standards that might be considered slow, but I’m pretty happy with it. I’m moving forward, and that’s better than standing still. And importantly, I’m giving myself time to think about what I write before I write it and time to reflect each day on what I have written. I think that’s valuable.

I hope to continue using a format like this in October, but at the same time I know I’m holding back in what I write out here, partly because, hey, you guys might read this story some time, I don’t want to spoil it, and partly because I don’t want to go boring you talking about a story you can’t read yet. So I think in October it’ll take a different format, and I’ll keep a separate document live for notes, but with dates and wordcounts and time stamps and everything too. Maybe I’ll post a weekly roundup summarising my struggles and questions through the week, as well as the total wordcount for that week. That sounds like it’d be a good idea.

November is a different matter, however. November is NaNoWriMo, and I’m never quite sure if it’s a good idea to take part. I did last year and got a solid, if subsequenlty unused, start to the first first draft of this story (this being the third first draft I’m writing now). I didn’t win the challenge of NaNo by reaching the 50,000 word mark, and that may have had a negative impact on my motivation in December, but during November itself I had a bit of a boost. The thing is, I’ve done some calculations and I’d have to double my writing output on weekdays and triple it on weekends to meet the 50,000 word target, and I’m concerned I’ll be left burnt out – at a time I’ll also be working towards getting crochet projects finished in time to sell at a Christmas market, and attempting to study for a couple of free online courses (in fact, the first starts next week: Hadrian’s Wall). I dunno, maybe NaNo would be a bit too ambitious.

And maybe I won’t even need it, not really. I am making progress, and more consistent progress than I managed in May. I’m reasonably confident that I’ll manage through October too, even if this part of it changes focus a little. Maybe it would be better to stick to a similar schedule in November, and work on carrying on the daily writing challenge, making writing a habit, than risk disrupting that with a mid-month breakdown if something at work requires a couple of days of overtime as a deadline approaches, and I’m trying to keep up with online courses and crochet and writing all at once and have no time left for anything else.

Things could well change between now and October 31st, so I’m not making a firm decision now, but the way I feel now is that it might be best to pass on NaNo. Even if it means I don’t finish what I’m writing by the end of the year. Better to finish later than I’d hoped than crash and burn and take down some other aspect of my life with it.

Anyway. On to today’s writing. I wasn’t happy with the last paragraph I wrote yesterday. Actually there’s a lot I’m not happy with, but I don’t want to just rewrite it all, I want to move forward. I’ve got some fun things planned today.

Okay so here’s what happens: The Governor is giving her whole big speech. She’s the centre of attention, just the way she likes it. She has to get the crowd to agree with her as she turns things around, so she’s weaving a narrative that starts with the evil criminals undermining our society, currently standing on the scaffold waiting to be hanged. That’s what I will start with today – expanding on that part of her speech. I’ll have the guards actually put the nooses around their necks as the Governor pauses to watch, directing the crowd’s attention as she does so. It’s all theatre to her, a show she’s putting on, because it is important that she create memorable events in order to make this location a magical well for her to draw upon (not that anyone else knows that yet).

Ah, but – she turns back to the crowd – this is all about society. Their society. The society each and every one of them has worked hard to create. A society free from the tyranny of Narricol, a distant and corrupt government that controlled their lives before the plague – controlled, but did not care for. This is about the fight against that Empire. A fight that depends on the swift and secure construction of walls protecting the town and its assets. And there are so few of them left, now, a mere couple of thousand where only a year before there were over twenty thousand people on the island. And there are never enough workers. So why not offer these criminals a change at redemption? A choice: to die or to work. As slaves, of course, but the Governor wouldn’t be so crass as to use that word in front of the crowd.

So I shall get to work.

Time is 21:33.

Finishing 22:25. Lots written today: 1,230. That was definitely much better than the first version. With the Governor’s false accusations against Fiarra – apparently now she’s a rebel leader who led workers in a bloody crusade against the “mine administrators” and then attacked the quarry with the same mob at her back – the crowd witnessing her execution really hate her. This can definitely play into some “how can I make things worse for Fiarra today” moments in the future, because a lot of people will believe what the Governor has said and will recognise Fiarra. So defintely a big improvement.

And now time for bed.

September Daily Writing 16

Okay, here we go, big fun times. The festival. Fiarra’s about to be escorted there, and I’m about to write it. I struggle at this point: starting the big important scenes, the turning point scenes I’ve been working towards for days. Not that what has happened before hasn’t been important, but there’s been a build-up, and now it’s time to reveal what that build-up has been building up to. I guess the pressure is on a bit here; I feel more strongly than elsewhere that I need to get it right. And I know it’s a draft and I can fix things later, but as I’ve seen, fixing big screw-ups can take months of dissatisfaction and then weeks of fresh writing to replace the old.

So I’m breaking this scene down a bit more than normal.

Yesterday I left Fiarra in her cell, washed and with clean clothes for the execution. She’s been told to put her hands through the bars so that the guards can put her in manacles to escort her out. So that’s where I’m starting: handcuffs. Yesterday’s scene involved a brief conversation between the one guard who’d been on duty and Fiarra. And she’d been crying too. So I’ll have the other guards rib the first about making her cry, and him apologise for their behaviour. I don’t have a name for this guard and I didn’t plan him, but now I’ve decided he feels a bit sorry for her. I think I’ll have him die later in the story. Maybe.

So then the four guards lead her upstairs and out of the barracks building, through the gate and into the palace grounds, where the festival is taking place. The festival goers are busy watching a play and don’t notice her, and she’s taken behind a curtained-off area where the other convicts to be executed are also being held, near the gallows. The play ends, there is applause, and the convicts are all taken up to the gallows. There’s murmuring in the crowd, a few people clearly distraught at seeing someone they care about up there. At the back, there’s a bit of a fight – that’s Teyt and Corun, not that Fiarra knows it, because Teyt immediately thinks of rescue and Corun knows that’s what he’s thinking and punches him to prevent him from getting them both killed in a fruitless attempt. Anyway. All Fiarra sees is a lot of faces, some excited, others sad, and movements in the crowd that hint at the fight at the back.

Then the Governor comes on stage and begins her speech about how evil they all are and how important it is that the defences are finished before the Narricol ships return, and so she has decided that mercy, here, is for the greater good, as these convicts can be reformed and put to work, and pay for their crimes that way.

So here goes.

Starting 21:26.

Finishing 22:02. 883 words. I got to the speech, but didn’t finish it. I think I’ll change the last paragraph I wrote when I write tomorrow. I’m not happy with it, it gives away the truth too quickly, without the crowd manipulation the Governor really needs to keep her audience with her. I think I was too light on the emotions too, but I’m stuck on that a bit, so I’ll work on it in the rewrites and just keep moving forward for the first(ish) draft.

September (almost) Daily Writing 14 and 15

I didn’t write last night because I had a nasty headache, so I’m making up for it tonight with a bumper double edition for your viewing pleasure. I’ve got 25 minutes til the beeper on the oven goes of to tell me dinner’s ready, so I’ll get stuck right in, then have a break for dinner, then have a second session.

Today I need to get started on the festival. No Laik in this – she’s apparently too busy making arrangements, but actually she’s in heated conference with the Governor, who has just revealed her plan to Laik about “pardonning” all the criminals due to be hanged. Which suddenly raises the question: where were the others being held til now? Oops, something I might have to fix in editing. Anyway. In this first session, Fiarra gets fresh clothes for the “execution” and gets some serious dread on as she is marched out there. I doubt I’ll get further than that, but if I do, it’s time for the Governor to give a speech about how wonderfully merciful she is pardonning these criminals.

Starting 20:06.

Finishing 20:26. 498 words. Now for dinner.

Okay break over. Dinner was entirely mediocre. And in my earlier writing session I got as far as Fiarra changing into the new clothes for the execution. Now for a short wait and a whole load of dread. And the sounds of people enjoying themselves at the festival, just to juxtapose things a bit, and then the long walk to the gallows, the Governor’s “aren’t I merciful” speech and maybe some more fun after that.

Oh and for the record, today’s music is the Pirates of the Caribbean theme. Lovely bit of music.

Starting second session 21:03.

Finishing 21:42, with 905 words. Never did get to the festival bit. Gave Fiarra a last minute chat with the guard, who revealed who else was about to be executed or rather their crimes, and what the Governor had told people about Fiarra (dangerous rebel leader who caused a slave uprising and attacked the quarry; how her feats grow in the telling). So tomorrow I’ll get to the Governor’s “aren’t I merciful” speech, for certain. Probably.

Pretty good day overall, with a total making up for yesterday’s headache. Now it’s time for bed.

September Daily Writing 13

Today is the first time of my September challenge that I am writing with alcohol in my system. It’s Saturday night, don’t judge. Thin is, I’m effectually teetotal most of the time. I’m just not a habitual drinker. I think the last time I drank was 3 weeks ago. That’s a short gap for me, sometimes I go months without one. Which means I’m a total lightweight. I can definitely feel the effect of the 500ml of Kopparberg pear I’ve consumed already.

So then. Tonight. I’ve had a look at what I wrote yesterday and crossed out the last sentence (I don’t like to delete things, I put strikethrough on them in case I want to use the phrasing again or want reminding what I changed). At the moment, I’ve got Laik and Fiarra in another discussion, this time an argument about Laik failing to get a trial for Fiarra – and the reasons and results of that. So in this session I’ll wrap that up and move on to the next bit, where Fiarra, left almost alone with her thoughts (the guard barely counts) starts dwelling on the possibility that she’s going to die, and what she wants now, having accepted that. I might, in today’s session, get to Laik’s second visit, but we’ll see. If I do, Fiarra will ask for her to take a message to her friends.

Starting 22:02 (Saturday night, remember? I can be late on Saturdays. I needed extra time after Doctor Who to digest both the episode and also my dinner, which was also late).

Finishing 22:40. 744 words. Tomorrow it will be festival time. In the end, it wasn’t Fiarra asking for messages to be taken to her friends, but Laik offering – and Fiarra refusing, after imagining how it might play out with each of her four friends when Laik came to tell them; two of four imagined scenarios ended in one of Fiarra’s friends attempting to kill Laik, and the other two involved profanities.

September Daily Writing 12

Ah, there’s nothing quite like the Superman theme to get motivated. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: John Williams is a genius. Honestly this stuff makes me want to do the superhero pose.

Yesterday’s session ended up being short. I finished on a bit of a downer – bad news for Fiarra – and it’s had the effect of deflating things a bit. I need to step things up a little. I don’t want to get to the festival too quickly, I want to add in one or two more interactions between Fiarra and Laik first, just to build their relationship a bit more. I need to be careful with this at this stage. It’s all too tempting to let my two favourite characters become friends, but I have to keep reminding myself that if that ever happens, it’s not for a very long time indeed. But at the same time, I want it to be a little bit more complex than unbridged hatred.

At this point, Fiarra sees Laik as her enemy; the Governor is still a background figure to Fiarra, and Laik is the person in focus. Laik is the bearer of bad news most of the time, and seemingly the person in charge of the decisions that cause the bad news. But at the same time, Laik is her primary lifeline, her only chance of survival and her only source of information about her friends. From Laik’s point of view, Fiarra is a criminal from a family of criminals, openly antagonistic and aggressive, who has been accused of spying and sabotage – but whose actions have also saved possibly saved Prentor’s life, even if those actions were done for completely different reasons.

And at the same time Laik was trying to use Fiarra as a case to make sure everyone accused of a crime gets a trial before they are sentenced – which the Governor is not in favour of and which she has now rejected in Fiarra’s case using the excuse that Fiarra lied about her actions and attempted to escape. And that leaves Laik somewhat resentful towards Fiarra for putting a spanner in the works of that cause, and Fiarra believing Laik barely even bothered to argue for a trial at all.

So any interactions I include need to take all that into consideration.

So today’s session will, hopefully, include Fiarra being moved up to the barracks so the hole she made in the cell wall can be repaired. Laik will visit her at the barracks, with Fiarra refusing to talk until she gets her trial, and later, asking Laik to pass on a message to her friends. Laik refuses to tell Fiarra’s friends about the planned execution in case they attempt a rescue, which she will point out would be more likely to result in them all dead than Fiarra freed.

Starting a little on the late side at 21:35.

Finishing 22:12. 673 words. Had a go at the first argument, but I might rewrite it tomorrow. Have to think about it. Tomorrow, though: desperation, and Fiarra asking for messages to be given to her friends.