The Travel Hopefully Slog

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…



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)

Vanity blogging?

Posted in The TH Slog by mand Season on Tuesday 22 September 2009

The point of documenting my Slog is not, honest, it really is not, just the public diary-keeping aspect. I’ve learnt how many such blogs are out there and they’re not the most inspiring read unless you’re already mad about the writer. The point of this is mainly to help motivate myself – which function it is fulfilling – and also for posterity, for the future time when i’m as big as Tolkein (or Doris Lessing would do) and the world will be tearing my work apart for A Level and degree essays: the (cliché alert) warts-n-all, blow-by-blow account of how even the great mmSeason once struggled and suffered for her creativity.

So in the spirit of that, i’m announcing that today i wrote 838 words, which is three pages in the Big Pink Book and a little less than most recent days, and brings the Total So Far to 57,650. The big sixty is in sight. Be happy for me.

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!

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.