Tag Archives: daily

September Daily Writing 11

Today has been a difficult one, for a lot of people worldwide. I started the day tired and ran on coffee to meet my deadlines at work, nothing particularly unusual, but throw in what day it is and there’s an extra layer of emotional fatigue. It’s difficult to think of what people went through thirteen years ago today – people on the four planes, in the buildings, in the emergency services and military forces, and the people living and working in New York and the Pentagon. Over two thousand peoples’ stories ended that day, in tragedy, in fear, in bravery and in self-sacrifice. Any heroism or humanity I can paint with my words in my whole writing career pales in comparison to what some people managed in a single day thirteen years ago, saving the lives of strangers at the expense of their own in a situation nobody could have been trained for.

I know it’s not relevant to what I’m writing or to my little daily challenge, but it needs to be remembered, today if on no other.

But back to what I am writing.

Yesterday I finished with Laik asking more about the quarry. Fiarra gave her a convincing lie, and instigated an argument that Laik then walked away from. Fiarra resumed working on her escape plan: to make a hole in the brick wall through to the next alcove, and hopefully escape. Time to make things worse for her again: Laik will reveal she’s spotted Fiarra’s attempts and that the next alcove is a locked cell too, and that it’s all going to get bricked up again and a guard assigned to watch Fiarra to prevent another attempt.

Starting 21:22.

Finishing 21:55. Only 405 words tonight. Fiarra is being moved, the brick hole is going to be repaired, and she’s not getting a trial after all. Not sure what to do tomorrow. I might skip ahead a few days and get to the festival at last.

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September Daily Writing 10

I don’t know exactly how long this novel will be. I don’t even know yet how it will end, or what will happen in quite a lot of the middle part, so there’s that whole ambiguity threre. But I think it will be quite long, because the way I write involves a degree of introspection and is generally not particularly fast-paced. It’s not an action story, by any means. I hesitate to call it a political story, because while some of the issues have political sides of them, there’s not really a lot of politics going on – the fledgling society is currently ruled by an elected leader who has become tyrannical. There aren’t parties and lobby groups, and there aren’t aristocrats or agendas. It’s more about society. About the way people treat one another, and judge one another, and learn to live with one another. It’s about individual relationships and the ways they change. And yes, there are larger political goals in there, but really I think it needs to be about people, not politics.

Obviously, it’s also a fantasy story – with the fighting and the magic and the single clear antagonist that all are common in the genre, and not generally in stories about society outside speculative fiction. But those are not what the story is about, they’re the tools I’m using to tell it the way I want to tell it.

I shouldn’t worry about length, really. It’ll be as long as it is. And while that’s true, I like to know these things. It gives me a feeling of being in control, and allows me to plan. I’m 20,000 words in now. The story has barely started. I’ve got a whole load of stuff to cover in Barrent itself, and with it a period of a few months. Then there’s the eventual escape – a nice big sequence, I shouldn’t wonder, of at least 5,000 words. But outside there are new challenges for my characters, a new society to adapt to and fit into. There will be some fight scenes in there too, and arguments and plans and personal conflicts and threats. It seems like a long way away, and I know what I’m like with finishing things and I half-believe I won’t ever get there. And maybe it will only be 80,000 and maybe it’ll be 140,000 or even longer.

I guess I just need to keep going, one day at a time. I’m only ten days into this challenge, and I have found it difficult, on several days, to decide to write – more out of laziness than anything else, perhaps. I guess as time goes on it’ll get a little easier, because it will be what I do, not what I’m trying to do. I hope, though, that I continue this into October, even into November and December if I need to. I might even try NaNoWriMo again, I’ll have to decide nearer the time on that one (it’d mean more than doubling my current output)

Anyway, musing over. What about what I’m doing right now? Well, I’ve crossed out some of what I wrote yesterday, and I’m gonna hurry things along a little to bring Laik back and try to get things back to where I want them. The Governor doesn’t care what Fiarra was doing sneaking into the quarry camp, but Laik still does. She wants answers; she doesn’t like not having one, not because she actually suspects Fiarra of anything, but because she has a psychological need to know.

Starting 21:24.

Finishing 22:04. 709 words. Finished with a bit of an argument – not a big one, just the seeds of one that Laik walked away from. But I guess this is the part where I start building up a powerful hatred for Laik – a hatred which will later drive several of her decisions. Fun times.

September Daily Writing 9

Today I start a new scene, and that’s always daunting. Well, I’ve started plenty of scenes, but where the lead neatly one to the next it’s one thing. When I finished at the end of a scene, even to the point that my character is asleep at the end of it, it’s a bit of a bigger deal. There’s not so much of a jumping-off point. Which is probably why I run scenes together as much as I do in the normal course of my writing.

I need to convey the passage of time. And Fiarra still has an escape plan, even if it resulted in a brick falling on her foot (this is why we wear steel-toe boots on construction sites, kids – and believe me, if you’re gonna do it often buy your own, the site’s supply can be uncomfortable and are usually only found in men’s sizes). Ahem. So I think in today’s scene, Fiarra will make some more progress on that and later Laik will come down and ask about the quarry.

Starting 21:11.

Stopping 21:46. 621 words. I didn’t get to Laik and the quarry questions, still, but had the guard return with the next day’s dinner and got Fiarra chatting with her. I think I might cut that, it’s not quite going where I want it to go, and I think it’s time I moved on to Laik and the quarry questions sooner rather than later. I can have Fiarra chat with the guard another time.

September Daily Writing 8

I sort of resisted writing today. It’s 9pm so I am, but ten minutes ago I felt like not bothering. But that wouldn’t be any good if I’m trying to get this daily thing down. Saturday was allowable, because I was pretty exhausted from a busy day and I had time on Sunday when I could – and did – make up the missed session. But today’s Monday so no cheating.

The problem is lost momentum. Maybe I was wrong to drop the execution thing on Fiarra as soon as I did. I guess I’ve got to get that back today. I left things mid-scene yesterday, in a scene I’m not sure will be all that interesting. I mean, I guess it’s just conversation, really, and more answers than questions. And there’s Fiarra’s injured foot, the guard will be back with stuff to see to that.

Maybe it’s best to keep it short, and leave out questions and answers for now. I need to look at things from Laik’s perspective again. Her objective in going down there is to check on Fiarra. Laik was surprised when the Governor revealed that Fiarra would be executed at the festival, and she’s not heartless, in spite of what Fiarra thinks of her at the moment. Maybe she wants to apologise, but never quite manages to say it. I think she’s shocked that the Governor dismissed the suggestion of at least holding a trial before executing Fiarra, so maybe she wants to reassure Fiarra that she is going to make sure that happens. I guess that’s where things will go today then.

Starting at 21:14.

Finishing 22:08. I wrote 1,011 words today – so I’m definitely happy with that. I finished the scene, too. I had Laik leave pretty sharpish after Fiarra asked her why she followed the Governor, if she disagreed with her about the trial, but I’d brought in a guard earlier who helped out with the foot wound clean-up. I haven’t given this guard a name but I think I’ll make sure to reuse her later.

So tomorrow I start a new scene. I think that might be where Laik comes down asking about what Fiarra was doing trying to break into the quarry. But that’s for tomorrow. Now I’m off to bed.

September Daily Writing 7

I got home a little late so I can’t waste too much time with musings tonight. It’s pretty clear where I’m going next, since I didn’t get to it earlier today: after Fiarra has to cope with her new injury for a little while, Laik appears and things start going a little better for Fiarra. I’m not gonna ask how I can make things worse for her today. I think she’s had a bad enough time of it.

Starting 21:29.

Progress:

Finishing 22:08, with 710 words. Pretty good. Didn’t end the scene, Laik’s still there and the guard hasn’t returned yet with bandages. So I guess tomorrow, it’ll be that – bandaging a foot and questions about the quarry.

September Daily Writing 6 (a bit late)

Yesterday ended up being a full on day and I was tired out by 9pm, so got an early night instead of writing. But I’m making up for it now, and will write a second time today later on at the normal time.

Plans:

Yesterday Fiarra found out the Governor planned on having her executed at the festival. She doesn’t know when the festival is and thus how much time she has left. Laik will come back in what I write this afternoon, with food she can’t not give to Fiarra after the Governor’s order. Laik still has questions she wants answers to, and now she’s spoken to Prentor she’s got a fuller story of the events at the mine, but there are still questions about why Fiarra was breaking into the quarry camp.

The question of how I can make things worse is a tricky one this time, because I’ve just made things pretty much as bad as they can get. I can’t go bigger than that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have some small thing that just adds to the pile. An injury while testing the cell more thoroughly than before for some means to escape would fit the bill.

I’ve thought about leverage too. Laik can regain that by offering little luxuries: a matress to sleep on, better or more food, a cup of cider, a change of clothes. Not at first. Not, perhaps, in today’s scene. And Fiarra might be resistant at first, unwilling to fall to bribes, but if she’s persuaded that her information won’t go hurting anyone then maybe she’d be more willing to co-operate.

For this session, then: Fiarra explores her cell more, hurts her hand so that it bleeds. And she’d got a while to put up with that, because nobody is around to help her. Then Laik returns, with food. She sends the guard for a clean cloth and warm water when she sees Fiarra’s injury, and the two of them have a little chat on slightly more equal terms.

Progress:

Oops, forgot to note down my start time. About 15:20ish I think. Anyway, finishing 15:59, with 733 words. Didn’t get to Laik’s return, but managed an injury – to Fiara’s foot, not her hand, in the end. I’m actually pretty happy about how I described it. She’s working a loose brick out of the wall and her hand slips as she’s pulling it out and the brick falls.

It looked like the red baked clay had come right off the brick onto my foot, until it started hurting, and the redness expanded from the little dotted marks, and I saw it was blood, not clay.

So in my session this evening I’ll write Laik’s return and their chat.

September Daily Writing 5

Plans:

Fiarra’s going to be left alone a while. I think a day will do. I was thinking yesterday that it would be longer, but then she’d need to be fed by guards and that would be like Laik conceded defeat. And I’ve asked myself “what can get worse for Fiarra today?” and the answer is: the Governor comes down and reveals Fiarra will be executed at the festival in a few days. This is what I was planning anyway, but previously I planned on having Fiarra get the news a little later. Now, the Governor is planning all along to have a few people condemned to be executed on festival day, but to actually “pardon” them so she looks merciful. But she needs workers, and killing people means fewer of those. She doesn’t let Laik in on her plan, though. Not at first, anyway.

But what that means for Fiarra is she’s left with this massive thing to deal with, and a deadline to apparently get out of it – a motivation to try anything in her conversations with Laik.

So that’s for today: a long wait, followed by a visit from the Governor. I can make things worse for Laik too, if the Governor orders Fiarra be fed properly so she doesn’t starve before the festival, taking away the leverage Laik was using.

Starting 21:24.

Progress:

Finishing 22:06. 751 words tonight. I’ve written the scene exactly as planned. Tomorrow, I’ll bring Laik back – later in the evening, perhaps, but not too late. I’m not entirely sure how to play it, but she’s not exactly happy with the Governor’s apparent decision. Nor, though, does she want to lose her control over Fiarra or open herself up. I’ll see how I feel tomorrow for how to play it.

September Daily Writing 4

Plans:

I begin to wonder if I should have picked up the story at a slightly later point, after the inital interrogation. I’m not enjoying writing this scene as much as I did first time round, and I don’t know whether that’s because it’s not as good, because I’m out of practice, or just because I have written it before and it’s not fresh material.

But I’m writing from the point I’m writing from so I’ll keep going. I haven’t yet dipped into the old version since I resumed writing this month and I don’t want to do that if I can help it, even if a lot of what I’m writing at the moment has a degree of duplication to it.

But perhaps I’m overthinking things. I want a finished manuscript out of this story, sooner rather than later. I stopped before because I wasn’t happy with it, and in some respects that was the right decision, but it took me months to start writing again and I don’t want that to happen again. My guiding principle, this time round, is “how can I make things harder for my characters?” My problem is often making things go too easily. I need to throw more spanners in the works. I need to throw them in when things are already bad, and when things are looking up.

Which begs the question: what about the ending? The whole reason the Governor’s regime exists, the reason it has support and the reason it uses slave labour, is to quickly create defences to allow the people to the island to keep returning ships from the Narricol empire away – to keep themselves out of the empire’s control. That’s what Laik thinks it’s for, that’s what everyone working within the system thinks it’s for. But I had not intended to bring them back. I wanted to keep them as a threat looming over the people, something they’re not entirely certain is ever going to happen and certainly not when, but not something that actually happens during the story. Partly that was because I wanted to hold that threat to use in a potential sequel, but that wasn’t really the main reason.

The main reason is that there are threats that hang over us constantly, in the modern world, threats that our governments tell us about and the media panics over and reports in alarmist rhetoric, and I wanted to duplicate that atmosphere in the story – a threat which the people of the island are told is real and immediate, which they can never really be certain about – after all, Narricol might decide the island isn’t worth it, they might be busy with a war everyone knew was coming, they might be afraid of the plague that wiped out half the settlement in the first place – afraid that it survived and will spread again if they ever set foot on the island again. The people of the island don’t know if the Empire will return to claim the island, and if they do when it will be. They’ve been persuaded by the Governor that the Empire is an immediate and certain threat, but the more time that passes, the less certain it feels. So what I want from the story is that uncertainty – do we sacrifice our principles and other people’s freedom temporarily to fight off a greater evil? Or do we live the way we feel is right, and potentially leave ourselves vulnerable?

I think I’ve just persuaded myself what to do. I’m leaving the Empire out of this story. It has enough that can go wrong for Fiarra and her friends and allies on the island that I don’t need to sacrifice one of my themes to add more peril.

But that’s all long-term thinking. Back to the short term. In the short term, I will ask myself, every day, “what can go wrong for Fiarra today?” I won’t always use the answers in the story – after all, an unending downward spiral wouldn’t be any fun, we need some highs as well as lows – but I will always ask it.

Today, then, what could go wrong for Fiarra? She’s already in prison, and I want her to ask Laik why it is the commander hasn’t questioned the mine director over what happened at the mine. That will put Laik on the back foot. So what could go wrong is if Laik gets in a bit of a strop over this revelation of her failure, and doesn’t give Fiarra the food she promised in exchange for co-operation. Fiarra goes hungry. It’s not really a big thing to go wrong, especially since being hungry isn’t new to Fiarra, but since she’s already in prison and has concussion I think it’s enough for the time being.

Listening to Twin Atlantic’s Serious Underground Dance Vibes again today.

Starting at 20:55.

Progress:

Finishing 21:40, with 725 words. I got to the end of what I was aiming for – with Fiarra calling Laik out about the version of events she was going by, followed by Laik ending the questioning session quite abruptly. And I’m reasonably happy with how it turned out. Tomorrow I’ll move things forward a few days – with no visits from Laik and enough food to keep Fiarra going.

September Daily Writing 3

I’m struggling to find the right music today. I’ve gone through Karl Jenkins, Ludovico Einaudi, Hans Zimmer and Phamie Gow and none of it quite fits. Something more energetic, I guess. Knopfler, perhaps. I’ll try Going Home from the Local Hero soundtrack while I type this out and see if that fits.

Plans:

Fiarra is alone for the time being. I don’t want to put in too much introspection, I think it slowed the old version down, but I don’t want to jump right to the next time Laik comes in. I think I’ll add a guard coming down to give Fiarra water. When Laik returns, though, she’s taking a different tack: asking about the mine rather than the quarry – what happened with the big break-out and all that. That gives Fiarra the chance to challenge Laik about asking Prentor – and gives me a chance to reveal a little of Laik’s storyline in the process.

Since Going Home starts quietly and ends abruptly, it’s not suitable for repeat, so I’m gonna go with Brothers in Arms instead.

Starting 21:12.

Progress:

Finishing 21:54, with 702 words.

I’m not completely sure the direction I’ve taken it in the last few lines is where I want to go. Laik doesn’t say “slaves” when talking about the workers at the mine, and Fiarra notices. But I think I don’t want her to notice that, because it lays bare a part of Laik’s personality I don’t want Fiarra to be able to use yet. It makes it too easy for Fiarra and it loses Laik the upper hand far too early and far too permanently. So I’ll cut that tomorrow and go back to the plan I had to get Fiarra to mention that the mine director can corroborate her story. Til then, Fiarra is just answering questions with as little information as she can, trying to make Laik frustrated. Or something. I’ll work it out tomorrow.

September Daily Writing 2

I’m starting a little early tonight so I’ve got more time for reading afterwards. I’m rereading Howl’s Moving Castle again because it’s a brilliant book and I love it and I want time to really get into it before I have to sleep.

A little while back I discovered that there’s a track on Twin Atlantic’s album Free called Serious Underground Dance Vibes which has no lyrics and which can repeat in a manner which isn’t jarring and also is quite good. I’ve had it on repeat while doing stuff for hours at a time before. And tonight, that’s what I’m listening to.

Plans:

So Laik things Fiarra is a rebel leader, on Roth’s information, and she expects Fiarra to ie about this. Today I continue the interrogation. I need to balance this right. I don’t want to drag it out or repeat things too much, and I don’t want either character to reveal their hand too soon. After all, Fiarra doesn’t want to give Laik leverage to use against her or to find and punish her friends just for knowing her. And Laik doesn’t want to lose control of the situation by seeming too desperate or appearing to be doubtful in her position.

At the same time, Laik’s a busy woman. She can’t spend all her time down here trying to get information out of Fiarra. And she uses that fact to her advantage – she’s not going to be rushed in her approach or look anxious about how long she’s spending down here, but if Fiarra doesn’t want to talk, she can go and do something else – and Fiarra is left alone with her thoughts and doubts.

Progress:

657 words, and to the end of the first session of questioning, which ended when Fiarra wasn’t answering any questions. Fiarra is stewing, and tomorrow I’ll bring Laik back and have some more questioning. Later in the day, perhaps, before Laik’s had a chance to talk to Prentor. I think I’ll have Laik take a different tack in the questioning, and focus on what happened at the mine this time, rather than asking about rebels and what Fiarra was doing at the quarry. That gives me the chance to have Fiarra challenge her about what Prentor said.