Tag Archives: progress

One Month In; Two Books Down

Right.  I finished both Idoru and Miranda Hart’s first literary romp, Is It Just Me? this week. This may sound like I am a powerhouse of reading, but the truth is that I burned through at least half of Miranda’s book over a couple of days during the Christmas season.  It had been bought for me and I didn’t have Gibson’s to hand to finish first before starting it.  That’s right, I have been polyamorous with my books.  Polyliterate, if you will.

It was a good book, but has been something of a bad influence.  There are now just too many new ways to wreak havoc now.  I am quite competent at being insane by myself without help, ideas, a role model or instructions to go about being insane in public.  Soon the mental hospitals of the world will be filled with Mirandites, mistakenly picked up by people in white coats for galloping in art galleries and hiding in the stationery cupboard.

So!  What’s a girl to read next?  I’m a bit sci-fied out right now, if I’m honest.  I’m also somewhat serioused out after Miranda’s incredibly dark exploration of the psyche.  Looking at my predominantly sci-fi and/or serious collection, I have decided to opt for May Contain Nuts by John O’Farrell.  It’s a funny look at extremely over the top middle class parenting, and it’s already made me giggle to myself one chapter in.  Teach me the ways of comedic timing, John!

Meanwhile, next week I am starting my internship and going to a meeting of journalists for a local paper.  This makes May Contain Nuts my very first commuting book.  Oh yes.  How professional of me.  Just have to hammer out that accursed Christmas story before my articles take up all of my attention.

Good news, though.  I have concocted the characters on the other side of the door to my carol singers…


Finals!

I jest.  I’m not doing my finals.  I’m British, I don’t even have finals.  I’m not even one hundred percent sure what finals are.

Nope, I’m talking about my final piece for class.  Basically, I have been tasked with coming up with a larger writing project, like a complete short story, to put together over four weeks.

So I sit down and realise that I do not have a clue what to write for this hypothetical short story.  Then I have an epiphany for a much larger idea which would most definitely take longer than four weeks.  With nothing else leaping out at me, however, I go right ahead and write the synopsis I was asked to put together on the off-chance I won’t end up presenting it.  Then I end up presenting it – and get unexpectedly inundated with collective enthusiasm.

So I have to write it now.

Not that this is some huge burden.  I mean, it’s still huge, but it’s not a burden.  It’s actually fun to write.  Funny but twisted, and really easy to fill with snappy dialogue – all aided by my recent, and curiously powerful, desire to watch old Buffy boxsets with their witty one-liners and loveable characters.  So this weekend I went ahead and got started writing it.  I started out a bit slow – a couple of five hundred word stints of dialogue in no particular chronological order – and then something happened: 9,000 words in three days.

It was scary not just because of its sheer quantity.  I’ve actually been writing everything in order this time, from the very first scene.  That never happens for me!  I mean, sure, it’s a first draft, so it needs a heck of a lot more work to be properly cohesive, but I’ve actually carved out a bunch of plot points I didn’t have a clue how to approach this time last Friday.

So, what have I learned, aside from that I am on freakin’ fire this week?  I’ve learned that nothing makes a person more productive than an embryonic concept.  The more you think about an idea, the more solid it becomes – and as Iris Murdoch said, “Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.”  So if you don’t get too attached to an idea in the first place, you’ll have less expectations of the finished product.  The fewer the expectations, the freer you are to just wing it in prose – and the more pleasantly surprised you are with what you create.

I’m also finally getting into the swing of writing first drafts.  It’s so cool, this almost free-writing task of just moving the story along without getting stressed about syntax and plot and characters.  There’s this passiveness to it, where your brain and typin’ fingers just crack on with it and don’t fuss over the details.

A good week.  A very good week.


Violent Typing + No Thinking = Win

Hi guys.  This week has not been without its challenges, but a lot has actually been accomplished.  My handwritten notes have been typed up into almost 4,000 words of work (apparently with such force my laptop would not be unreasonable to call social services when I am out).

Also, those scenes are only first drafts, so they’ll have to be majorly fleshed out as time goes on, meaning room for growth and lots of groundwork going down.  I’m still writing more scenes, which is great, and I’ve watched a couple of movies which ideally will put me in the right mindset in terms of plot structure.

I think there’s a lot to be said for writing the first draft before fleshing out your characters.  Only for things which are more action-based, of course.  If your story is driven by your character’s psyche you can’t exactly exclude them from the party.  But just getting bare bones down, which you know are going to need a lot of work, is quite comforting because you aren’t writing anything to which you feel committed or attached.  I write a scene and, if the scene doesn’t tally up with my characters for the second or third draft, I’ll reinvent, re-jig or replace it.  It means the creativity can just keep on flowing without me worrying in the moment where things are going to fit or whether they’re ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

I also find something quite soothing about going over a draft and editing it (albeit I am currently holding off until I’ve finished the first draft completely).  I feel like a teacher, going over the work with fresh eyes and thinking about what needs to change or be added.  Perhaps I need a red marker to better accomplish this task.  Is it acceptable to put ticks on your own work?  Or is it arrogant?  Or do I just need to get some sleep?


Laura! Do Your Exercises!

You know, I didn’t think I’d achieved much this week in a writing sense.  I’ve been flitting around the incompletes in my portfolio without anything really jumping out at me.  And yet, reflecting upon the past two weeks, I’ve actually done a fair few things – things I told myself I should start doing, miraculously enough.  (It probably doesn’t sound miraculous to the casual observer, but this actually is a surprise.  I never listen to me nag.)

 

  1. I have taken to free-writing and free-drawing.
  2. I have forced myself to think up summaries for new short stories in five minutes flat.
  3. I’ve started writing two fanfictions to help ease me back into original writing.
  4. I went online and did a little research to educate myself about some terms and parts of history with which I have never been acquainted.
  5. I have finally begun to compile some old short stories and ideas in my portfolio, and like some of the stuff I’ve found.

 

I’ve also taken a look back at the story which was stumping me and have thought my way out of a plot issue.  Maybe all these writing exercises really are helping me along!

 

So, what’s next?  I reckon I need to do the following:

  1. Update my records for character designs
  2. Type up the notes for one of my stories
  3. Produce a nice calendar detailing all the stuff I could – should – be getting on with
  4. Finally finish the damn book I’m reading
  5. Finish another story

Perhaps paying any attention to what I say will pay off twice!


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.


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…


I Come Bearing A Table!

Hi, all.  Well, if Twitter didn’t tip you off, my schedule has been working fine thus far.  I proudly present the fruits of my labour below in a pretty table:

 

So there’s no confusion, the first column is the hours working, the central column is the number of pages completed and the right-hand column is the number of words written.  I wrote eight A4 sheets in fifteen hours.  Not sure what other people average, but I’m pretty happy with it for now.

Here’s the thing though: I’ve just seen a book which casually throws out the figure, “three pages per day.”  Now, don’t worry, no-one out there needs to take it upon themselves to usher me to one side and gently explain that people write at different speeds.  However, since I’m a bit pressed for time this week – I’m spring-cleaning and having a friend over for a couple of nights – I reckon I’ll attempt this target myself.  Not sure what constitutes a page in this context (a standard book page or an A4 page?) but I’ll attempt A4s and see what happens.

I’ll let you know how I get on.  I’m sorry I’m only offering a quick post today, but I’ll hopefully write a follow-up sometime this week.  I just saw that warm, bright sunshine and had the strongest urge to… hole myself up indoors and reorganise old university work.

Hmm.  That isn’t healthy.