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?

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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…

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…

… PLAN.

Aaagh.

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)

Eight hundred and fourteen words written and typed up today

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Wednesday 16 September 2009

Yesterday i caught up with myself: typed up two days’ scribbles plus a bit left over that hadn’t been typed before the summer. I’ve set myself a new target of nine hundred words a morning – nine hundred, cos that is three pages of my Big Pink Book. This week – ok, i know Monday to now isn’t statistically significant, but i’m sure of myself at the moment – i’ve stuck to it. Lower than the plan i used to have in mind but it seems to be what i can realistically do.

This brings Chapter Eight to 4,300 words and the whole thing to 56,000 if i’ve added it up right.  :0)  Chapter Three is for now a sentence reminding me what’s going to happen in that bit; and about 9,300 words are doomed to be scrapped cos i changed history for T. I like to think that cancels out – though of course it is still ten (or eleven) -ish mornings’ extra.

Told you i’d get back into the swing. It feels VERY good to know what’s happening next, and something of why that’s happening – ie what it leads to – and to have a shapeless-but-substantial idea of what happens in the end.* Can’t say i’ve been in that situation ever before, with this story. (In the past i’ve set out to Write A Novel a few times, some of them with a very clearly laid-out plan, but i’m not counting those as they have faded out. One or two are not dead and may one day be resuscitated, but they can’t be included in the evidence for How I Work because on them, i didn’t work.)

* I’m also quite looking forward to where i’m about to take T and what we’re about to encounter there.

I still feel this is ‘nearly halfway’. It’s been feeling like ‘nearly halfway’ for a hell of a lot of weeks. Bit like that middle part of a long walk when you keep thinking your destination will come into view from the top of the next hill, and at the top of that hill you revise that to probably from the top of the next hill, and ‘next’ keeps adapting its meaning. Eventually of course you do reach the pub and sit down for a well-earned and very welcome ploughman’s.

If i had a definite total word count in mind, i’d have a better idea of how far along i am. At this very moment i’m thinking that to produce a finished piece of about 100,000 words, i’ll need a first draft of about 150,000. Don’t know if the proportion i cut from a work this length will be the one-third that it usually is from short fiction. This is why the Hopeful bit’s up there with the Travel title!

Anyway. Having got this lot into OpenOffice, i got distracted researching skinks and tabards. All relevant!

Long time no Slog

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Thursday 10 September 2009

I had to give in to circumstances, as you know, and it has nagged me that i also didn’t know where i was headed with the Slog – so if there had been no circumstances, would i have given in anyway to not knowing where i was headed? I’ll never know. I’m saving up my big effort for next week as i will have the house to myself again from Monday.

Meanwhile i’m getting back into the swing by using Storybook, which helps. (So much that i’m adding it to the Slog sidebar.) A lot of what i’m using it for is ‘unassigned scenes’ (not sited in a particular chapter) filling in pointers that hint at what’s to come, but aren’t in the ms because i wasn’t hinting when i wrote it because i didn’t know about that Metaphysical Subtext.

I have finally cracked the Metaphysical Subtext. I think. It happened by dreaming up another major character. I can’t recommend that as a method for getting through a patch of being stuck, cos i doubt you could decide to invent a character in order to getting restarted on the plot; this character came to me – not ready-made, this time, he’s more a rôle than a person yet – and since the plot problem was in my mind when that happened, my first thought was how he would tie in with the Metaphysical Subtext. And he can further that part of the story beautifully, taking T to places i really didn’t expect him to travel, which i’m now looking forward to.

The danger will be forgetting to keep the non-metaphysical, non-sub story in mind. Can’t just veer off onto a different course and then wonder how to join it all up back to where i started. But danger is diluted by being foreseen, and so once the Metaphysical is nice and solid (irony, that: solidity in metaphysics), all i will need to do is hang on tight to that easily-rolling narrative while daydreaming about the other plot, the one that started off as the only one.

Easy.

Hm.

Until next week, then, i’m in the process of taking a really deep breath before diving back in to what i feel will be cold, cold and pretty deep water. [I can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it i can do it…]