The Travel Hopefully Slog

Just to let you know

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Sunday 21 November 2010

Draft One of the Slog was complete in April and I intended to write about what I learnt from the experience (apart from Yes I Can). I still intend to.

The trouble with sister blogs is that they’re more like conjoined twins sometimes. When one falls in the ditch beside the road, the other is stuck there too. In less difficult times they can step in for each other, say when one loses her voice for a bit, but not when one really keels over.

The Travel Hopefully Blog explains which ditch we’re lying in. Here, I just want to say that the Slog’s successor, which seems to call itself the Big Project – namely the next novel – has not suffocated out of existence but is having to hold its breath for a while. This one has a pretty structured plan to follow, so when I can set a start date it will know its route. The ‘Hopefully’ part will be not about where it’s heading, but the sights it sees and the company it keeps along the way.

Whenever I think about it, I get excited.


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…

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.



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…]

It’s all happening (again) – yay!

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

In the last just-over-a-week i, tubigripped, dressing-gowned and mixedpollened, have done 17 handwritten pages, which i estimate to be about 4,000 words or more if i’m lucky. It’s hard to guess as my coverage of the paper is so variable. (I also have a chunk not typed up from before the hiatus, so the 41-nearly-42,000 words so far could be approaching the 50,000 mark; it’s nice to think so.)

And TODAY it started ‘flowing’ again. Good ol’ persistence arrogant pig-headedness.

Yes, it has been very hard getting back into it after the break. But for a month before taking that break, i was struggling to get back into it anyway. Without skipping a single day, i’d got myself out of it.

I don’t think it was about the travelling-hopefully principle – i do not think it was because of having no plan, or too vague a plan. I’m still in that state; i know roughly the end in a non-concrete kind of way, and i know (at last) what’s just about to turn up. I think it was because i kept going when i’d got lost.

UPDATE: Also, i think, it was having taken T out of his native country into another, very different, environment. I was muddling through without any real feel for the place. Normally i don’t need to think about a setting – not with my conscious mind. Normally i just need a vague visual impression and each detail shows up when a character focuses on it. For once, that wasn’t happening. So without going backwards for now, from here on i’m changing this second land into something else. They do say one of the best bits of writing is playing god…  😉

It’s interesting that my confidence isn’t back as fully as my words. I’m looking ahead to a lively conversation between T and a new character (not until tomorrow; i have my physical limits). I can hear their voices and i know exactly the outcome of the conversation. But i don’t feel i can do the actual words. T will talk his way out of a situation, and that’s one of the ways we differ – he has the gift of the gab and i definitely do not, at least not out loud (not so bad on paper, lol). I don’t feel i can put the sneaky, nimble words into his mouth that i know he will come up with on the spur of the moment.

It will depend on EITHER inhabiting the character, OR working really hard in an artificial-feeling way. That’s not the point. The point is that i, today, have no faith in being able to do it, which is unusual for when i’m in this it’s-flowing state of mind. Which i diagnose as a hangover from being choked by the hiatus. I’m interested to find out about the anatomy of this difficulty. I have had ‘writer’s block’ (not the term i choose) before, but have never come from it back into the work it sprang from. Until June 2009.  🙂

Lucky i do, really, know dialogue is one of my strengths. Dialogue, emotional truth, atmosphere. (Not as sure about atmosphere as i used to be, but it may be that i’m more ambitious with my settings nowadays.) Plot, realistic props, etc, not so strong. Can’t decide where to rank myself on world-building but otoh i don’t need to, do i? 😛 When i get the hang of plot, and stick that onto the things that come easily by nature, i can’t help but knock ’em dead.  😉

And now OpenOffice won’t open, which may be about Firefox so i will go offline and see if that is it. Though i only have nine tabs open this morning, about 1/3 as many as yesterday when OpenOffice was fine. But i’d better go and put some clothes on as well.

ps That was all typed earlier, though i had to get into OpenOffice to check my word count – and walk the dog and give her my lunch – before actually posting this at 3.30pm. I don’t want anyone thinking i sit around this late before getting dressed!