Procrastination - Word count 66,112 (wp) 84,750 (pr)

Sunday, November 26, 2006, 10:03 PM

Procrastination is a terrible thing. I'm finding it a little difficult to apply myself to writing at the minute and I know why - it's because I'm on the home stretch. I've found writing this novel to be a wonderful experience and I don't want it to be over.

But over it must be.

We have finally reached that point I keep going on about - the summit of the rollercoaster's highest peak. We can see the huge drop on the other side and everyone's drawing in breath ready to let out a bellowing scream as we plummet downward.

In other words, the antagonist is about to do his stuff. Watch this space...

I had to have a break - Word count 62,115 (wp) 80,000 (pr)

Thursday, November 23, 2006, 10:10 PM

I just racked up another 1000 words tonight after not having touched it for two days. I really had to have a break - I just couldn't maintain that pace. So, night before last I worked on my hook ready for Miss Snark's Crap-O-Meter IV (actually, I completely rewrote it - I'll post both versions here after I post it over at Miss Snark's). Last night I just watched TV and read.

I'd been missing too much sleep, you see. I kept working until the early hours, then I was too keyed up, too excited about what was happening to my characters, that I just couldn't switch off. Now I've got some sort of flu coming on, exacerbated by the tiredness, so it was time to ease off.

So, where do we stand now? We're in the final run up to the oft mentioned antagonist's final ploy. That'll happen within the next 4ooo words, I think. Then it's be the big finish - I'm not sure how long the climax itself will be, we'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Nearly at the final push - Word count 61,145 (wp) 79,000 (pr)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006, 12:41 AM

A very short post tonight. I've written almost 4000 words since my last post, it's very late, and I'm very tired - again! I haven't been getting enough sleep, the late nights compounded by my mind being full of story and plot points that need mulling over.

The protagonist and antagonist have just had a violent confrontation which will lead to the antagonist's final ploy, and thus the finale. Also, the third character, the woman, had just revealed her own scary side, and I have to say, writing that scene kind of put the willies up me!

Anyway, better go and see if I can get some shut-eye.

The end of a busy week - writing as relaxation - Word count 57,259 (wp) 74,000 (pr)

Saturday, November 18, 2006, 8:13 PM

Wow, what a week. There just aren't enough hours in the day. There's so much going on in my life right now I'm amazed I have time to write at all, let alone plough through as many words as I have since starting this blog.

20,000 in two weeks, and that's word processor count, not the more generous printer's rule.

At the current rate of going my first draft will be complete by the end of November. I'm already feeling a little bit sad about that. I've experienced that peculiar emotion before, where you work on a project so intensively over a period of time that it become a pillar in your life. When it's done, no matter how much you longed for it to be over with, you still miss it. I can sense that coming on as my novel approached its climax.

We're still not quite there yet. The protagonist and antagonist are mid confrontation, our hero being in mortal peril, and after that the villain will make his final move. After that, it's the big finish.

Going by word processor count, I'd say it'll wind up between 70,000 and 80,000 words. By printer's rule that should clock in at over 100,000. Let me just explain that I've been basing the printer's rule count on my manuscript being in 12 point courier, double spaced with a one inch margin, which leaves a rough count of 250 words per page if each page is full. If i average out the words over ten fairly dense lines, for instance, then do the sums to bring that up to 25 lines, then the average is actually 235 words per page, which reduces the word count somewhat. I'd be really curious to hear from anyone else on how they calculate word count because I'm really not sure how to describe the length of this novel to an agent or publisher.

Regardless, the manuscript will be exactly as long as it needs to be - not a word more, not a word less.

Getting closer - Word count 55,016 (wp) 71,000 (pr)

Friday, November 17, 2006, 1:36 AM

It's another late post tonight. Time for writing has been in limited supply, but I've stayed up tnight to get some done. This isn't out of a sense of wanting to move things on, but rather just wanting to know what happens next.

Remember the rollercoaster analogy from an earlier post? The summit is now in view, the greasy chain dragging us ever nearer the top. The deathly plummet on the other side in now very close. Using the word processor count (which apparently you shouldn't, as the printer's rule is the proper yardstick) I'd say I'm within 5000 or 10,000 words of the last gambit of the antagonist, and after that it's the climax.

BTW, regarding the awful choice I was faced with in my last post - I found a way to do both with no compromise. Yay!

Argh! I don't know what to do! - Word count 51,723 (wp) 66,750 (pr)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006, 1:25 AM

I posted last night about this fiendish scene that would let the reader imagine a terrible thing had happened. When I was coming to the end of the next scene this evening a great idea occured to me, an idea that would bring my protagonist and antagonist into a direct confrontation with each other that would foreshadow the novel's climax.

Brilliant, I thought, a spike of action and drama to see us over until we get to the big showdown. Except... it would make the last scene, the fiendish one, redundant.

Now I don't know what to do. It's not that it would make the previous scene illogical or inconsistent with the rest of the plot - it would just make it pointless. The awful thing the antagonist (maybe) did would now be meaningless as the protagonist would never know it had happened.

Quandry!

I did it! - Word count 50,232 (wp) 65,000 (pr)

Sunday, November 12, 2006, 11:20 PM

Well, I met my challenge to write 5000 words this weekend. In fact, I bettered it by 1000. 6074 words, to be precise. I'm pleased with that, despite it meaning I sacrificed a few of the other things I was supposed to do with my precious two days.

I've just re-read the last scene. It's just about the nastiest there's going to be in the whole novel. I did mention this was horror/paranormal thriller, didn't I? Nothing is described in detail, but it's hinted that the antagonist is about to do something really awful. I think this one scene will either make people keep reading to the end in one sitting (the bad guy will really deserve his comeuppance now) or make them put it down never to be lifted again (how could you do that? That's awful!). I wonder, assuming anyone ever reads it, if it will occur to people that what they think just happened was entirely in their own imagination? I didn't describe this thing, I didn't even say it happened. I merely presented the possibility that it might be about to happen.

Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah! (rubs hands together in an evil fashion)

4000 gone, 1000 more to go - Word count 48,411 (wp) 62,750 (pr)

Yep, that's right - I'm four fifths of the way to meeting my weekend challenge. I've got to quit now, have a rehearsal (part of my other life as a musician) but I'll come back when that's over to hopefully rattle off at least another 1000.

I should point out that I'm not writing words for their own sake, here. My story is very lean with no padding to beef up the word count. Come rewrite time I'll probably have to go back and add quite a bit of visual description for settings and characters as my writing has tended to emphasise action, dialogue and how things feel to the POV characters. As it's written in third person limited I'm very much in the POV character's head in each scene and they are more concerned about what's happening and how they feel about it than what colour the walls are, so that's reflected in the prose. Maybe that's a good thing? Anyway, I'll be addressing those issues when I'm finished the first draft and not before.

My challenge is almost halfway complete - Word count 46,515 (wp) 60,500 (pr)

Saturday, November 11, 2006, 8:09 PM

Okay, progress so far. Roughly 2400 words today which is almost halfway to my target for the weekend. Only a couple of my other sceduled tasks for the weekend have been sorted, though, so I don't know if I'll make it. I'll stop now for some fuel but I may come back to my novel later. I had planned to see some friends for drinks, but that might have to be sacrificed. We'll see.

My weekend challenge - Word count 44,158 (wp) 57,250 (pr)

I've got a busy week ahead of me. From tomorrow evening on I've got rehearsals, recording sessions and tuition every night for seven consecutive days. Add my normal working hours and that leaves very little time for writing, which is going to be so frustrating seeing as I'm kind of on a roll at the minute.

So I have set myself a challenge, kind of in honour of NaNoWriMo - I know that's an American thing, nothing to do with me, but I like the idea. Anyway, my challenge is to write at least 5000 words this weekend.

On the one hand that should be easy enough seeing as I've got a whole 48 hours to myself, and I've got a very clear idea of where the next few thousand words are going, but there's the matter of five news items I need to write for my business website (I've taken on some very big clients) plus other weekend things like cleaning the house, laundry, visiting my mum, going into town for provisions, maybe doing some socialising. You know, normal grown up real world stuff.

So, 5000 words is a challenge given the demands placed upon my time. But I think it'll be worth the effort given how little time I'll have through the week. Of course, I'll try to report here on my progress.

Incidentally, I've noticed a strange and probably annoying habit creeping into my posts here. It's a pretty basic and cheap literary device, and there's probably a name for it. I keep making my closing line a stand alone paragrapgh consisting of one short sentence so as to lend it some greater significance.

I must stop doing that.

I'm scaring myself! Word count 42,626 (wp) 55500 (pr)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006, 11:04 PM

Just a short post this evening. I'd promised myself I'd take a break from writing tonight. I'm dog tired, I think I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome, and I've got a stabbing pain between my shoulder blades from hunching over the keyboard. My eyes must be like piss-holes in the snow.

I was going to have an early night, I swear, but once again I sat down to read over last night's efforts and, what do you know, it's ninety minutes later and we're about 1400 words further along. You see, my antagonist was up to some mischief and I wanted to see what he'd do - I just left him hiding in the shadows of a great chestnut tree in the grounds of a delapidated Victorian hospital on the outskirts of Manchester.

Here's a strange thing. I'm starting to scare myself with this story. Now, I don't scare easily. The Exorcist barely raises a shiver from me, I just love it as a superb piece of cinema. But this story is spooking me. As I write in my home office I'm finding myself jumping at the sounds of my old house settling down for the night.

My novel is a genre piece - you could call it horror, possibly, but paranormal thriller is nearer the mark. There is some violence involved, but very mild by most contemporary standards. I don't like suffering presented as entertainment, so the empahisis is on psychological chills rather than gore. Maybe it's scaring me because the story explores the boundaries between the mind and spirit, and is thus venturing into areas an agnostic like me would prefer left alone.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Four people have read me! Yay! Word count 41,243 (wp) 53,500 (pr)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006, 11:39 PM

So, four people have read my blog so far! I'm hardly setting the world alight, but hey, we all have to start somewhere. If there's one thing I have, it's perseverence. If I believe in something I'll stick with it until I achieve what I wanted. So, I shall keep blogging away here as long as I feel it has some value to me, even if no-one reads it. This journal is as much for my own posterity as it is for communication with others.

Talking of perseverence, I guess that's the one thing that gets novels written. I have started novels many times before, only to quit because I lost faith in them. If I can keep my faith in CONDUIT, then I will complete it.

The story is beginning the upward arc before charging into its climax. Imagine a rollercoaster - we've just started on the climb up to the summit of its last great peak, with the final plummet on the other side. We're not there yet. Other things have to fall into place, certain actions need to be taken, a final desperate ploy by the antagonist must occur to provoke the final confrontation. But we're on that climb, the big greasy chain is pulling us up the tracks in preparation for throwing us over the other side.

And you know what? I'm excited. I want to know what happens. I know more or less how we're going to get there, and roughly what form that final showdown will take, but I want to know what my three key characters will do. My protagonist has just had his epiphany leading him into direct conflict with the antagonist. The antagonist sees it coming and he's getting ready for action. The third character, the centre of the conflict, is undergoing an awakening of her own and who knows what she'll do when it all comes to a head? After all, she's the dangerous one...

In other words, some time in the next few thousand words it's all going to kick off.

I can't wait.

A turning point - Word count 39,975 (wp) 52,250 (pr)

It's very late and I'm very tired. I came in after ten this evening after a very long and busy day at my business and later at a recording session (I still do occasional session work, but only if I like the project). I decided to open up the Word doc that is my latest attempt at a novel just to read over what I'd written yesterday, and -- BANG! -- it's a little more than three hours later, nearly 2 AM, and my novel is 2000 words longer.

That's the way this project has been since the outset. It has a life of its own, and seems to want to keep on flowing whether I'm in the mood to write or not. I'm grateful for this. I've never been in a position where I depended on being able to write something, where my quality of life would actually be affected by it, so 'writer's block' has no real meaning to me. I'm sure there are many out there who dread those words, but it's not something I've experienced - but that's simply because I've never had to. So, I know it exists, and I'm grateful that my juices are flowing so easily (is it just me, or did that last phrase seem a little wrong?!).

Anyway, the 2000 words mostly consisted of a pivotal scene where my protagonist experiences a complete and utter demolition of his entire belief system. Everything he knows has been wiped away by one huge revelation that will ultimately free him. I didn't present it directly, though, and this is a point I'm not sure of. It's something I'll need an objective party to critique to see if it works. We find him after the revelation has happened, when he's in denial, reeling from its impact. We then learn about the revelation as he goes back over it, so we kind of get it second hand. I felt this would heighten the sense of what it meant to him while lessening the melodrama of the event itself.

Good idea? I don't know. It may well have to be rejigged come revision time. I'm just glad to get it down as it represents a major turning point in the story.

So, to the story itself. The novel. What am I going to do with it when it's done? Honestly, I don't know. If I still think it's any good, then of course, I'll begin the process of submission and rejection in the hope of getting it published. I intend to submit the hook, and if requested, the opening scene to Miss Snark's third Crap-O-Meter (see previous post or follow the link on the right) so she can maul it. That's on December 15th, by which time I should be finished the first draft.

And if it's no good? Well, I think I'll be content enough just to have finished it. It'll be one more thing ticked off the 'Things to do before I die' list, and that in itself will be worth the effort. Plus, it's fun. I'm really enjoying this. I may be suffering the effects of sleep deprivation, but at least I'll have something to show for it.

I suppose the question follows - which 'Thing to do before I die' will I tackle after this mountain has been climbed? Having a threesome with Sheryl Crow and Jennifer Aniston is next on the list.

You never know. It could happen.

Couldn't it?

In praise of Miss Snark and William Goldman

Sunday, November 05, 2006, 9:45 PM

If any of you (there is a you, isn't there? Surely someone will read this...) want to learn more about writing then you can do no better than visit a certain Miss Snark. There's a link over there on the right - no, don't click it yet, read this first. Miss Snark is a mysterious literary agent who dispenses wit and wisdom, and occasional cruelty, in her oft updated blog. I feel this may be the Internet's greatest resource for aspiring writers. I don't exaggerate. Her postings have been invaluable to me. In fact, it was her observations that prompted me to scrap September's project and start again with my current idea. So, it's all her fault.

Another wonderful resource for writers is a pair of books by William Goldman, the legendary screenwriter. They are Adventures in the Screen Trade and More Adventures in the Screen Trade. You might notice that I cadged those titles for my own blog. Although those books deal primarily with writing for the big screen I believe his principles can be applied equally to the printed word. Also, if you're like me and obsessed with cinema, they make an entertaining and enlightening read.

In the first of those volumes, Mr Goldman summed up Hollywood with three words - "Nobody knows anything."

If I may share a personal anecdote, a similar sentiment was once expressed to me at a well known film festival. I was attending said festival as a movie I had scored was receiving its premiere there. I was at one of the festival's many schmoozing events where hundreds of hopeful film-makers were forcing their scripts into the hands of anyone who stood still long enough to be snared. I came to this event with the idea of selling my compositional services but instead found myself standing in a corner feeling frightened, inadequate and hopelessly out of place.

I was considering just skulking out the door when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to see a certain well known director smiling at me.

"It's alright, son," he said. "We're all charlatans here."

If I find myself needing to justify my attempts at writing, if I feel I have no business putting words on a page, I remember those two brief sentences.

Conversely, when I feel a little arrogance creeping in, I go and see Miss Snark. She kicks it out of me right and quick!

Pleased to meet you - Word count 37,936 (wp) 46,000 (pr)

So, here's my first post. Will anyone ever read it? Am I talking to myself? Who knows.

Anyway - let's lay it all out here...

Who...

I'm a thirty-four year old male, a moderately successful businessman and an accomplished musician. My life so far has seen me try many occupations. I have scored feature films, been a hand double, a teacher, a shop assistant, and more.

Where...

I live in the United Kingdom, and my exact location will remain a secret for the time being.

Why...

Ever since I can remember I've wanted to write novels. I remember sitting in my bedroom at the age of seven with a pad and pen creating an incredible story that involved a plane going down on a mysterious island populated by -- gasp! -- dinosaurs! Damn that Michael Crichton for stealing my ideas! I think I managed about ten pages before more important things, like drawing on the pavement with chalk, got in the way.

My next attempt was as a teenager, this time a sci-fi novel. I wrote a whole chapter that time before deciding it was stupid and tearing it up.

And so it went on. Over the years I've had many ideas, developing them in my imagination, with the intention of one day writing them down. Sometimes I tried. Sometimes I would put together a few pages and see how it panned out. Inevitably the fact that I have never written anything in my life that has been published would rear its ugly head and insecurity would halt the project.

A few years ago I came close to finishing one. I don't mind saying I thought it was pretty damn good. It was original, fast paced, and set in a world I knew well - the Internet, or more accurately, its grimy, sordid underbelly. I took the brave step of showing the opening chapters to my best friend who also happens to be a Doctor of Literature. He is a harsh and honest critic, but to my surprise he thought it was good enough to be developed further.

Bouyed by this I ploughed on, racking up 60,000 words within a couple of months. My story had reached its critical point, the corner leading to the home straight. The end was in sight. A couple of weeks would see it done.

So, what happened?

It fell apart, that's what. I just couldn't get my characters to the place I needed them to be in order to bring everthing to a logical and satisfying conclusion. It was heartbreaking and I didn't write another word for three years.

Until September 2006. I don't know what triggered it, but one evening I sat down to write a novel I'd been fermenting for some time. It started out ok, with a catchy intro - a man waking up! How original, I thought. It was 10,000 words gone when I started doing some research online, finding lots of useful websites, and the information I garnered made me look at my fledgeling chapters with a more objective eye. I realised it was garbage and stopped right there.

Then I thought of one of my other ideas. It was one that had come to me in a dream (no, really...) several years ago but I hadn't tossed it around upstairs much. It was three characters and a situation. That's all. I started writing and it has flowed almost effortlessly since then. It is a paranormal thriller (my favoured genre) titled CONDUIT.

So, I have decided to create a journal of my experience. Whether it will be of the slightest interest to anyone except me remains to be seen. From a practical point of view, it will provide an outlet for me as I have told no-one, not a soul, about my new project. I made the mistake of telling a handful of friends about the nearly-novel of a few years ago, and I now recall that with embarrassment. So, the existence of this work will remain our secret.

Just between you and me, understand?

I will periodically post here about the development of this novel, and if I can complete it, I will further regale you with the tales of agent chasing and the quest for that most elusive of prizes ... publication. Incidentally, I have ruled out the last resort of the desperate writer - vanity presses. No, not me, I won't be going down that road.

Just for your information, I will post current word count with every blog entry. That will be in the form of the Word Processor count (wp) and the Printer's Rule count (pr), the former normally working out around 20% less than the latter. Any comments on that particular topic would be gratefully received.