Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Storydactyl Grows Feathers

Only as the final few rectangles of card fell to the kitchen table did something magnificent occur to me this week.  Something which tickled my organisation glands and caressed my nostalgia nodes.  Oh yes.  Ladies and gentlemen, I have a new process.

You see, recently I have been drawn back to the plot cards I invented a few weeks ago.  To recap, the plot cards are small cards describing story events – however major or minor – which I feel need to go into the plot.  I place the cards into chronological order so I can work out which sequence of events makes the most sense and where every plot point goes – or doesn’t  go.

Anyway, I had come up with some extra little events to add to this collection, so I went ahead and started looting the crafts drawer (I live with a nine-year-old) for some card and scissors.

However, here I faced a harrowing organisation crossroads.  You may recall that I used pink card the first time around.  What I didn’t mention, not least because it has utterly no relevance and can be of interest to nobody but me, is that when I cut out my second set of cards, I cut them on a different shade of pink card by accident.

When I took to the kitchen for my third encardment, therefore, I had a choice.  I could either use one of the previous colours, accepting that one of the sets would be the odd one out, or just go for different colours and be done with it.  I picked the latter option and out came the yellow card.

What I did not immediately realise, however, was the latent novelty of having been, uh… forced to do this.  As I accumulate more and more card sets, I can see which parts of the plot I started with and when and how I have added to this original model.  I can actually look back and see the evolution of my idea.  Check it out!

The dark pink set came first, the light pink set, second, and the yellow, third.  The first set is all towards the end and beginning, which shows how little clue I had about those middling chapters.  It’s really satisfying to see how much I’ve incorporated into that section since then.  Feeling good about it.

So, why is it nostalgic?  Well, in the good old days, the process of defragging one’s computer was a colourful affair.  Not just for a 90s child obsessed with charts and colour-coding, but literally.  There used to be a bar with hundreds of coloured lines in it.  These represented shards of computer files scattered in different locations on the computer.  As the computer reunited the pieces of each file, the strands would reunite into big blocks of the same colour.  Whenever I see my pack of coloured cards in profile, I think of that.

Or a really, really fruity bar code.

Just Because It’s A Job…

Hello, all!  I have several announcements this week.  I’ve surpassed ten blog followers and gained over one hundred Twitter followers!  Thank you to everybody who has supported my blog and helped me reach – and exceed – those big round numbers.  You are all very much appreciated.

It’s only right that I try my best to work hard in exchange for that support, and I’m pleased to tell you that my writing has finally picked back up to a decent pace.  Over the course of the last three days I’ve written over two thousand words and I’m feeling good about it.

Two factors have really helped to get the ball rolling again, and I’d like to discuss them both here.

Firstly, music.  I’m certainly not the first author to make use of music during their creative process, and I started thinking about music I associated with the book a while ago.  After my slump last week, however, its value has truly made itself known.  It’s reminded me of the feel of the novel – the atmosphere.  It’s this perfect little summation of what I’m getting at which doesn’t need construction or summation or elaboration.  If you’re a writer and don’t have a playlist for your story, have a crack at making one.  It may not seem important, but it can turn out to be a quick and therapeutic way to submerge back into your story world.

The second factor was a little matter of acceptance.  I am halfway through Chapter Six.  And why?  Because I have accepted that Chapter Five is just not ready to happen yet.  I am taking a new strategy by just writing the bits I know I can write, and, heaven forbid, actually enjoying it.  I was getting so hung up on the bigger picture that I forgot I could enjoy it somehow.

The twists and turns of the mystery element are going to need some more time to come to fruition, but I’m going to stop stressing about that as much.  At first draft stage, I’m willing to just forgo the details and have a good time with the narrative for as long as possible.  Because, hey, just because I want writing to be a job, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it, right?

P.S.  My playlist may be book-specific, but I still challenge anyone not to feel wired to write after listening to Howl by Florence + the Machine.  Gives me the tingles!

We’re Going To Need A Bigger Graph

As I said last week, I have been exploring ideas for the novel through all manner of mediums.  It’s been a jumpy start, getting back into writing content for the novel, but today – right now, in fact – I am going to open the grid from which I’ve been hiding and update my word count.  Ready, set…

Ouch.  Not as bad as I thought, though.  That’s why you make your rows thin, it makes it look better when you end up missing a couple of weeks!

I have been thinking that I’d like to include planning and other creative processes in this graph as well.  I think I am in a place where I can slowly push through Chapter Five.  However, progress comes in many different forms.  I may not have written much of the actual novel this last couple of weeks, but I’ve written and drawn over twenty-five pages in my trusty black notebook.   I’ve been focusing on plot development, drawing maps, doing research on all sorts of odd things to expand the horizons of the universe I’ve created.  It’s just a shame it isn’t reflected in my figures.  For all anyone else knows, I could have been eating crayons and bum shuffling up and down the stairs all month.

As such, I’m not declaring this as part of my (pretend) annual leave from writing, and I’m going to start measuring the other book-related work I do.  However, it is time to toughen up on myself.  This weekend is shaping up to be quiet and relaxing.  Quiet and relaxing enough to work.

Oh, and another thing.  It’s performance review time…

The Black Cat

When I was about twelve, I watched an episode of Charmed in which an entity called the Demon of Fear used a witch’s worst fear to scare her socks off.  And when I say, “scare her socks off,” I actually mean scare her to death.  Her hair would go white and she would die from a heart attack.

Although in that instance the white hair was pretty laughable, and I wasn’t positive why someone with a fatal fear of earthquakes would inhabit San Francisco, sometimes I reckon that fear-induced heart attack could happen to me.  I don’t want to take drugs.  However, if anything makes living clean a necessity it’s the strong suspicion that, if I took a paranoia-inducing substance, I’d get myself in such a fearful state I’d exhaust either my heart or my adrenal glands and keel over.  (Trivia: did you know you actually cannot survive without adrenal glands?)

I am an intensely paranoid person, and almost always over completely irrational things.  Anything supernatural weirds me out – especially anything involving ghost children.  The Ring truly traumatised me as a teenager.  Ten years on I can barely stand to sit in the living room after everyone else has gone to bed because I still get the heebie-jeebies thinking about it.  The Sixth Sense got me too, and I’ve seen enough screenshots of The Exorcist to want to steer clear.  The body bag in A Nightmare on Elm Street freaked me out too.  And the baby on the ceiling in Trainspotting.  Okay, that one wasn’t strictly horror, but it still was not pleasant.

It is for this reason that I have speculated upon my capacity to write horror fiction.  I do like the idea of it.  I’m just a big scaredy cat and worry I’ll get sucked into the darkest recesses of my mind and never pull myself back out.

This is one of the reasons I have been casually delving into the works of Edgar Allan Poe.  When I was in Year Nine, I remember having a great substitute teacher who got us to read The Black Cat.  As a result, I used the infinite power of the Kindle to bag a copy of Poe’s works for 77p or some similar crazy amount and began to mooch through a couple of his short stories.  (The other reason I was having a read is because I am adapting to the short story environment and was hoping for some guidance from one of the greats.)


The Black Cat is fantastic.  Poe writes a narrator’s account of a series of strange coincidences – perhaps supernatural occurrences – in his life as he yields to a drinking problem and he allows his affection towards his loved ones to turn to abuse.  His beloved cat, which he kills, appears to be haunting him for his betrayal, and eventually it is another black cat who reveals his murder of his wife to the authorities.

I think what Poe’s works have made me realise is this: I prefer general eeriness to out-and-out terrifying scenes.  I thoroughly enjoy a subtler tone; something more psychological.  I’ve always been a fan of unexplained events or mysterious circumstances, like the Bermuda Triangle, tales of haunted buildings or unsolved murder cases.  As a kid I loved programmes like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and It’s A Mystery.

What I’m saying is, I’ll probably always be a wimp.  I’m never going to sleep after I watch some girl with a green complexion turn her head all the way around.  But, thanks to Poe, I am three pages into an eerie short story and feeling good about it.