The Travel Hopefully Slog

Quick year-end update

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Tuesday 29 December 2009

One thing to say:


and another thing:


Back in harness – and out of harness cos of interruptions – and in harness again – and i can’t see the point of dragging up the details. But i will have a completed first draft by the end of February.

(And you know how good i am at telling the future.)


Solved it

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Friday 13 November 2009

In fact i solved it a week ago. But it’s been such a week.

Here’s why to stop.

  • Fallen out of love with it
    – (NOT a reason)
  • Plot too linear
    – (not a reason: fixable)
  • Characters two-dimensional
    – (not entirely true, and, I think, fixable)
  • Superficial
    – (I don’t know – fixable?)
  • No idea of the ending; not ‘I’ve no idea how it will end!’ but ‘I have no ideas for possible endings. At all.’
  • Slog2 is calling… louder and louder…
    – (not a reason)

But I’m not going to stop.

It’s pretty clear to me that this will never be published no matter how much remodelling and redecorating it gets. That’s not pessimism, it’s obvious. Apart from the above faults, and the thing being stylistically to barely 6/10 my usual standard and the seam between headlong spontaneity and unenthusiastic roboticism being impossible to cloak, I understand that a first novel is never a first novel. No one gets their first into print. (I do know ‘no one’ is qualifiable but ykwim.)

And I’m SO slow. What word means the opposite of prolific? Everyone (qualifiable, again) is busy with NaNoWriMo at the moment and a fair few will achieve the 50,000 words in the month. It took me seven months to reach 50,000 and that was when it was going smoothly. Assuming my first novel (that the world sees) is my fifth or sixth – and assuming the rewrite takes as long as the prewrite and then the agent- and publisher-search take as long again (realism here) – I’ll be nearly as old as Mary Wesley was with her first published novel.

Now, I’m planning on ninety but I don’t know of any women in my bloodline that made it past eighty-nine and I have healthy problems that statistics want me to get real about. While refusing to get real, I also don’t want to throw away any years on lost causes. Call it insurance.

(For the same reason my latest resolution is to learn to read faster. So many books, so few decades.)

And yet…

I’m going to finish it.

A wannabe has a stash of unfinished novels. I’ve got a few already in my collection, though none got past 30,000 words before this. I’m not prepared to amass any more. Part of the training, the apprenticeship I’m committed to, is finding out if I have it in me to produce a FINISHED first draft. If I don’t bring forth a finished first draft, then, what has been the point?

And so I am going to stick an ending on it. Forget the arc I’ve been following – the intangible 150,000 (or whatever) that I’ve had in my head because where I’m at feels like halfway or at best two-thirds. I’m going to conjure up something sudden and adhere it somehow within probably another 10,000 words. Today, I don’t know what it will be. I won’t sink to deus ex machina but I will be wrapping up ends and tucking in threads in a frenzy of finishingness. I doubt I’ll let T take the job and the journey that have just been presented to him.

Meanwhile – ever experimenting with my own ability – we’ll find out if I can handle planning one book at the same time as writing another. Slog2 (which I need to rename before ‘Slog2’ sticks because it’s too ‘incidental’ for when it will be the main focus) won’t have to wait. No linear plot for this one, no narrow horizons, no liking the characters too much to put them through the mill till they’re out of shape. Oh, no. I’m thinking the actual writing will begin in the new year, perhaps when 2010 is a bit less new, and that’s going to be the real thing again, the discipline. Not everyone does it but routine works for me. There’s one of the lessons I’ve learnt in the past year.

Yes, on Sunday it’s exactly a year from the appearance of the opening words of my dear Slog. Quite a lot came out fully-formed. I’d love to show off those opening words, but I have more sense. ;0)

And you never know. In another year or three I may pick it up, read it through, and be surprised how much promise it has after all. Well, I can dream. If we didn’t live in our dreams we wouldn’t write fiction, would we?

I put my write hand in, my write hand out – in, out, in…?

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Tuesday 3 November 2009

I’ve just read this on The Intern (which looks to be a good blog, both useful and entertaining):

Lack ‘o’ identifiable conflict (especially in the first few chapters) is a major problem with first drafts.

That’s a relief. The Slog’s lack of conflict wasn’t at the beginning, which started with a crunch (not a bang – T is too wimpish to do bangy things if he can get out of them), but once i began to worry about tying threads together and weaving in metaphysical fibres, things got a little un-tense. And they’re still droopy. But if that fault is common in first drafts, then it’s ‘allowed’ – that makes it one of those faults i was prepared for. I didn’t know i knew about this one in advance, but obviously i did.

Hm. Seems i’m still thinking like the writer of this Slog. Yesterday the possibility of salvaging it for short stories was leaning me towards getting of the ride, and now the possibility of repairing the unravelled middle is leaning me towards staying on till the ride’s finished. Aagh, againly.

A dead horse?

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Monday 2 November 2009

I told you some time ago that if you didn’t see many blogsposts here, that was a sign things were going well with the Slog – all the words were going into that instead of into Travel Hopefully. I lied.

Seriously considering ditching this Slog.

  • A different, better structured, less linear, more emotive Slog keeps badgering me.
  • The fear keeps looming that even if i rescue this Slog from its mid-point sag, the seam will show for ever. Even in the work of experienced authors, i can usually spot where the go-slow happened. In a first novel with all its other shortcomings, surely it would glare out at the least perceptive reader.
  • I keep reading interviews with successful writers who habitually let go halfway through a novel to write other stuff, with no apparent ill effects.

The biggest argument against dropping it now – at least for a break, if not permanently -is that this was partly (largely!) an exercise in stick-at-it. Seeing if i could stay to the end, not only seeing if i can produce anything worth looking at. (Same mindset as got me through my Finals!) Another thing i keep reading is professionals saying everyone’s ‘first’ novel is actually their fifth or sixth, or twentieth. Just recognising that this isn’t going to be The One is not enough reason to give up on it now. I knew i’d go through doubt; i knew i’d have patches of being sick of it, of feeling incompetent to complete or even continue it; i knew there would be days and weeks (though tbh i didn’t expect months on end) of wishing it was all over, or believing it ought to be. I even knew some siren-like new project would beckon and solicit me, especially while the creativity was flowing well. So when those happen they’re no excuse for quitting.

I’m fine with temptation, i can put my head down and plough through it as if it wasn’t there as long as i know that’s what is needed. The difficulty is knowing whether this is temptation, or wise instinct, prompting me to change direction completely. Is the slog a dead horse… am i ridiculous to keep flogging it? Historically i am known for hanging onto things long after it’s obvious they’re going nowhere. But i’m also known for not carrying ideas through to their conclusion.

The question has been in my head for weeks. I took a step nearer to putting this Slog in the airing cupboard, in the middle of the night last week when it occurred to me i could still get a lot of material from it. The past year (yike! on Sunday it will have been a whole year) wouldn’t be 100% wasted if i turned parts into longer-short stories and suchlike.

{{writhe, writhe, groan}}

I’ve found out I need to plan.

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Thursday 15 October 2009

Plan. This is why: you have to make the reader care about your characters first and then beat them up. The characters, not the reader – though s/he should feel beaten up by proxy, when it happens.

And while living close to my characters (by spending part of every day in their company) I haven’t been able to bring myself to do the beating up, not mercilessly. I can throw problems at them endlessly and get high on following them through all kinds of entertaining situations, but I can’t do the truly awful stuff to them. So I need to concoct it all before I get to know them very intimately – and boy, can I be ruthless and mean when not thinking of people as people. Only then ought I to get up close to them.

It’s safe, then, to feel all the affection I can. The beatings will hurt all the more because the writer properly cares. I knew I would have to put myself through the wringer, and if you can squeeze harder by tying yourself to the mast – excuse my corrupting the metaphor – if you can take yourself and with you the reader through more painful experiences by making it impossible for yourself to untie yourself and escape, then that’s the method to use.

Therefore I’ve become glad that I had that break. It’s left me temporarily less involved with T, less fond of him – and now I’ve realised the next step is to dump unpleasant challenges on him, I can see that getting a little unhooked from him has made it possible.

There needed to be a bright side.  :0)

Next time methinx I’ll do some planning before I begin…