The Travel Hopefully Slog

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?


Plans – nebulous and, yes, hopeful

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Tuesday 13 October 2009

Couldn’t find the Big Pink Book this morning. I didn’t worry, things come and go in this house; i’ve found it now anyway. It meant i wasn’t sure of the names of a couple of newly-introduced characters and hadn’t the option of checking back.

But i’d already decided not to write today. I’ve only been managing about half an hour lately, and that not every day. (More to do with Life getting in the way and stamina rather than writer’s block or something that would deserve that title.) I set out to…



On the travel-hopefully principle i wasn’t planning at all in the beginning, and then only vaguely. This is still pretty vague but is a step towards feeling happier about ploughing onwards when if i’m honest i don’t know where the hell i’m going. I took T and each of the other main and main-ish characters and gave each of them an arc, expressed in a single sentence (though not forced into sentence structure). A very simple ‘story’ for each character, such as:

  • ‘Knows just enough not to know how much he doesn’t know – this is the ruin of him.’
  • ‘Understands less than F, which saves him [irony] from the sticky end she comes to.’

After that i distilled for each a kernel of significance expressed in one or two words. So against one name i have LOYALTY, against another FEAR, and others picked EROTICISM, ABANDONMENT, POWER, SPIRITUALITY, etc. They chose, i didn’t.

Turns out there are a dozen* of these characters, which i like for its suggestion of the Zodiac with the balance and patterns that go with the psychological and moral symbolism of that. Along the same lines i also found, without having looked for them, a word for each of the three places/regions T visits (or has so far visited).

Don’t know if this would work for other writers but it helps me.

* Before you blurt out that twelve is too many, only 2½ are actually main and at least 3 barely qualify as main-ish. One of them in fact never appears.

That’s all i’m doing today. Between something funny going on in my right wrist and a lot of lost sleep, i’m not up to more. But next time i can screw up my self-discipline, i’ll take the first of these individualised mini-outlines and put some concrete incidents in. If feeling strong i may do several in the same session. And with these ‘plans’ i will feel secure enough to keep going. Having just written perhaps, i don’t know, could be up to 20,000 words of false start, i do need a little of that security. But i hate the idea of anything more definite – for this piece of work at least. After all, taking the slightest hint and blowing it up into a huge story with very little to do with the original meaning, though not useful in most areas of life, is the knack that got me into writing fiction in the first place.  ;0)

Half a hundred thousand

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Friday 26 June 2009

It’s stop-start, but it’s not all stop.

Three hundred and twenty-five words this morning. Paltry, it’s true.

But i know what happens next.


Words so far: 49½ thousand. So close, ouch.

And tomorrow, or perhaps the next writing session but one, i’ll be onto Chapter Eight.


Setting: Stir and allow to settle.

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Thursday 18 June 2009

That setting i couldn’t make real in my own head? Even though these things usually take no work at all, if i start with a clear visual picture and some atmosphere? I may have cracked it.

I was thinking Arabian Nights – and today it came to me to mix in some Celtic myth. Ali Bab meets Druids? Believe it or not, i can imagine that. And if no one else can on their own, then they’re just waiting till they read my version – which is all good!

Brief update on this morning’s post which went out this afternoon

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Friday 12 June 2009

I have typed nearly 4,000 words this afternoon/evening, and that’s about 2/3 of what was sitting there untyped. Reached stuff written in June, and stopped. Not sure how long it took me – far longer than it should have with a past as a touch typist – but however long it was, i’m hurting all over from it.

But it means i will total about 47 or 48,000 when it’s all typed (without scribbling any more), and i have arbitrarily designated the end of a chapter so that brings me into Chapter Seven. This number, being close to 50,000, makes me feel good.

By being bigger than 40,000 it makes me feel good, as well. That ’40’ has been stuck in my consciousness for too many weeks.

I wondered about skipping some of this back-into-the-groove scribbling – not typing it up at all. Lucky i did in the end, as some ideas that came to nothing may still be useful in one way or another. For example, i set up a wedding party gathering ahead of T and another character as they go along a street, with mental images of entertaining chaos, and then after a few days away from my big pink book had forgotten all about it. But at a different moment in the story it still may be handy.

What eventually worked was thinking around the characters, reviewing in my head what we know so far about each of them and their motivations and individual stories, BUT instead of doing that ‘straight’, doing it via T. He did the thoughts about them, and i wrote down what he was thinking. It combined getting me back into that world, and his head, with reminding myself what was going on (in a way that reading my notes or summary doesn’t do) and also, of course, getting me back into the pen-in-hand habit.

None of it will stay, i should think, but the bold cuts are not for Draft One. That’s why i typed it all, too – trying to stay out of edit mode for the time being.

And that’s why i didn’t do anything about the writing itself, which appalled me. (Quite apart from the handwriting, which almost defeated me.) Repetitious, inevitably since i wasn’t focused, but also long-winded, full of dreadful grammar, terrible phrasing, and inconsistencies; stylistically clunky… just as my conversation when i’m tired goes round in circles and takes five sentences to explain something that would have taken one if i’d been about to remember the right word. I was aware that it was drivel while i wrote it, but ploughed on, and it’s even worse when looked at from the ‘outside’. And i don’t care, cos i can rewrite the bits where something happens that’s worth keeping, and scrap all the rest. It’s ALL first draft, so i’m still including it in my word count!

Not such a brief update after all. No time to make it shorter!

Can you feel the relief? It may last me the whole weekend. 🙂