Progress Report - Word Count 47,406 (wp) 58,500 (pr)
Sunday, April 29, 2007, 10:41 PM
Just a quick post tonight to mark progress to date. I didn't get quite as much written over the last seven days as I'd have liked, but I suppose it's not bad. I'm at an interesting stage of the plot, particularly in terms of individual character development and their relationships with each other. There are no good guys or bad guys in this novel. Everyone exists in a murky grey area. Every character has something to stain their conscience, even the one and only female cast member, who until the last few hundred words seemed whiter than white.
I could write on this evening, but I need to get a reasonably early night (like before 2:00 am!) because I've got a long drive to an intensve meeting in the morning. And I know I'm going to be very tired by the time I get back in front of my computer, so it might be a couple of days before I can write again. Which is a shame, because things are ticking along nicely.
Bizarre Research - Word count 40,925 (wp) 50,500 (pr)
Sunday, April 22, 2007, 8:44 PM
If any security type people keep tabs on what Internet users search for online, I must have been setting off red flags and alerts all over the place. Over recent weeks I have been researching various types of gun, knife and improvised weapons such as petrol bombs. I have spent time on the official websites of Walther, Glock, Lone Wolf and Gerber knives.
I have downloaded the instruction manual for a Walther P99, and studied the ammunition types accepted by the Glock 23 (9mm, by the way). I know how the folding mechanism on a Gerber FAST Draw knife works. I have read articles on the types of wounds created by these weapons, and how a stab wound to the heart brings about death - there's not that much blood, apparently.
If anyone, anywhere, kept track of what I've been browsing, they'd think I'd gone nuts. I'm particularly mindful of the tragic events in Virginia last week as I go through this stuff. I've never been interested in any kind of weaponry (guitars and cars are a different matter - Charvel guitars and Aston Martin V8 Vantages do more for me) and the apparent openness of American society to devices designed purely for the killing of other creatures has always struck me as bizarre, so I'm finding all this a bit - well, icky!
Anyway, if anyone from any international security agency is reading this - I'm just researching for my current novel. I'm not planning on causing mass destruction while going out in a blaze of glory, honest!
In other news...
I've had a really good weekend. Got some stuff done around the house, saw some friends who I haven't seen in ages, and got a decent amount of writing done.
Ah, what a wonderful thing. I sat down this evening to go over the most recent chapter and wound up pumping out about 2000 words. That's what it was like with the last novel, and it's getting to be that way again, with the work taking on a life of its own. I'm really tired tonight (hard couple of days at work) and really didn't intend on writing anything, but it turned out I didn't have any say in the matter.
It was also cool in that I just hit page 200 of the manuscript. In fact, I just finished typing and page 200 only contains one solitary line. It's a line of dialogue. My protagonist says it. He's sitting on the edge of a bathtub in a grimy bathroom with his gun to another man's head.
He says: "When you close your eyes at night, do they scream?"
Chapter length? Word count 35,025 (wp) 43,500 (pr)
Monday, April 16, 2007, 11:03 PM
I've been wondering about chapter length in my current novel. In my last novel, I kept the chapters to a minimum of ten manuscript pages, usually to a maximum of twenty. The last chapter I just finished in the new one was four pages - the one before that was five. In the last novel, I had multiple scenes per chapter, including POV shifts (but never within a scene). With the new one I'm starting a new chapter for every POV shift (though consecutive chapters may also be in the same POV). There really only are the two POV characters in this one.
Anyway, my point is, is this a good or a bad thing? I leafed through a few of the books on my shelf to see what other writers do, and it varies. Thomas Harris, for instance, favours short, snappy chapters, and Silence of the Lambs has sixty chapters, which is a lot for a not particularly long novel. Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas is something similar. On the other hand, my Carl Hiaasen books generally have a reasonably chunky 500 pages, but only come out at thirty to thirty-five chapters. They may not feel as pacey to read as SOTL or Odd Thomas, but they're not exactly leisurely either.
I like the idea of the short chapters giving the novel pace, particularly where it's at right now where a lot of the major plotting is happening, but at the same time I'm worried it might have the effect of making it seem a little light-weight.
Dunno. I suppose I'd better just write the bloody thing and see.
A good weekend - Word count 34,247 (wp) 42,500 (pr)
Sunday, April 15, 2007, 10:51 PM
I had a really good weekend of writing. The word count has been racked up by about 5000 (word processor count) and I was able to iron out a couple plotting issues I was struggling with. I also got through a couple of key scenes in terms of action and character development. No-one has met their maker for over a little over a hundred pages as my protagonist has struggled with his conscience (thanks for that suggestion, SS@S!), but he's about to go into overdrive.
There are nine followers left. Soon there will be only six...
I spent a quiet Friday night in last night because it was a special occasion - Peep Show is back for a new series! I don't watch much TV, and can rarely keep up with a series as I never remember to be in front of a telly at the same time every week, but I make an exception for Peep Show, the best British comedy since The Office. This is its fourth series, and I was a little worried it might have run out of steam, but no need - it was a classic episode. Welcome back, Mark and Jeremy, my wonderfully pathetic pals!
A movie recommendation. I watched a favourite last night, a Spanish film called Intacto. Here's a little hook-writing practice:
Luck is not just a gift, but a commodity to be traded, lost and won. Federico, once employed at an isolated casino to steal luck from its customers, seeks out the only survivor of a plane crash, Tomas. Federico convinces Tomas to join him on a journey through a bizarre underworld where ordinary people, and whatever luck they posess, are gambled alongside money, houses, racehorses and cars. The ultimate prize is the chance to face the luckiest man in the world, Samuel (a chilling Max von Sydow), Federico's former employer, in the deadliest gamble of all: a game of Russian Roulette, a game Samuel has never lost. Federico knows Tomas might be the only one capable of beating Samuel, the man who stole his luck seven years before, and will risk everything to bring his new protégé and old mentor face-to-face.
Anyway, here's a clip from the movie, a scene in which the competitors are running for their bid at facing Samuel...
Almost the end of Act One - Word count 28,994 (wp) 36,000 (pr)
Wednesday, April 11, 2007, 11:18 PM
I tend to think of novels as having the same three act structure as most movies. In general terms, it goes like this...
Act 1: The kick off event, establishing the setting, the setting out of characters, the taking of sides, the beginning of conflict, climaxing in some sort of major shift for the protagonist.
Act 2: Plot, plot, plot. The hardest act in many ways, because stuff needs to keep moving, conflict is built upon, agan coming to some sort of climax that sets up the third act.
Act 3: The hopeless situation created at the end of the last act needs to be overcome, and all paths lead to a big showdown which will hopefully be satisfying and believable.
So, I'm approaching the climax of Act One. My protagonist is going to come into direct conflict with the antagonist for the first time. Things are ticking along reasonably well in terms of words per day, but it's still much harder going than my last novel. I'll get there eventually, though.
So, for some reason, I have become a walking Van der Graff generator over the last few months. I don't know why, but if I sit on my couch for any period of time then get up and open my living room door - ZAP! I swear, it's been like the end of Return of the Jedi in my house recently.
It also happens at my office. I was pointing out something to one of my employees on their monitor and ZAP! My arm felt like it had gained several pounds all of its own.
It's not that I'm wearing any particularly new clothes I didn't have six months ago or anything, and my choice of footwear doesn't seem to have any bearing on it. So what's going on? Do I have secret jedi powers or something?
A few weeks back, Sex Scenes at Starbucks posted an interesting exercise on her blog. The idea is to go to page 123 of your work in progress, go to the fifth line, and take an excerpt from that paragraph. At the time I was at page twenty-something, so did it with page 23. Now I've reached page 123 I'm having another go. Here it is (complete with my customary foul language):
Campbell grinned as Toner dragged him out to the street.
"What the fuck are you at?" asked Toner, his watery eyes wide, his mouth gaping under his thick moustache.
"He was asking for it," said Campbell.
Toner straightened his black tie. "Jesus Christ, Davy! Eddie Coyle's an arsehole, everyone knows that, but you don't beat the shit out of him in front of his mates if you're looking to make friends around here."
Campbell pointed to the Jaguar at the kerb. "That yours?"
"Aye," said Toner, seeming to grow a full inch taller.
Campbell picked glass from his palm. "Well, quit yapping and take me to McGinty."
What I'm particularly pleased with is that I've written almost 100 pages just a few weeks. :)
I'm a regular visitor to Belfast, but it's been ages since I've been able to stop and have a look around there. I spent a lot of time there in my twenties when various friends were at university, and can recall (sort of) many good nights spent staggering round the city. Yesterday evening, I had a gig there, and for a couple of reasons I wound up being about an hour early. The venue was close to the university area and I found a place to park my car nearby (I was meeting my partner in crime at the venue later). Having a bit of time to kill, I decided to take a walk around the streets of what is locally known as the Holylands (because of local place names like Jerusalem Street, Palestine Street, Damascus Street etc). It was a beautiful spring evening, the sun was out, I was feeling good cos I was dressed up, and I spent a very pleasant hour exploring the streets I used to know, watching people go about their business - particularly the ladies. :)
I was reminded of something I haven't consciously thought of for a while - Belfast can be a lovely city at times.
Also, I was able to scout two of the locations from my current novel that are in the vicinity, and it's good that I did because a house I described as being three storey is actually only two.
In other news...
That venture I mentioned in my last post - I've given it more thought, and the more I look at it, the more I think it's a good idea.
Progress report - Word count 22,497 (wp) 28,000 (pr)
Sunday, April 01, 2007, 3:23 PM
More progress has been made, albeit slowly, on the new novel. All characters have been introduced, their relationships and motivations established, and set on collision course. The plot is fairly well mapped out in my head, so it's now just a matter of getting on with it. Something tells me I'm going to have to do more pruning when this one's done than I did with Conduit.
In other news...
I've been mulling over an idea for a writing related venture since yesterday. It's something that I could use my day-to-day work skills for, and it might be useful to a lot of other writers. But first things first - finish the novel, then have a look at this new idea.
I'm the author of thrillers THE TWELVE (a.k.a THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and RATLINES. My debut novel won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Visit my website at www.StuartNeville.com.