The Graham Greene Affair: Week 2

The Grahame Green Affair
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The Graham Greene Affair: Week 2

The Graham Greene Affair continues to work well for me. Despite feeling like I have a head full of cotton wool, I’m somehow managing to keep pace, and am actually finding it more and more difficult to stop at 500 words. Last night I found myself awake at 1 am, Googling the name meaning of a new character, debating what superpower I would give them, and how it would affect the story if I did. Then I drifted off in a haze of, “I should definitely move that scene”, “Something else needs to go in between that and that”, “Maybe I should cut that in half and whack something in the middle.” Yes, this challenge is keeping me up at night, but honestly I’ve never been more pleased by a bout of insomnia. It’s the kind of sleeplessness you have as a kid the night before Christmas, or your birthday. It’s exciting.

Part of what has triggered this excitement is talking about Rimjhim in a pseudo-academic style again. I spent the better part of yesterday swapping notes with my friend Jo, who is joining me on this epic quest to finish a novel. I’ve got to say, I greatly appreciated the input, and it was good to hear that my writing was having the desired effect. As always, there were things that I loved that she didn’t, and there were things that I hated that she loved. In particular, there was a scene in which my protagonist, Alec, and his best friend sit down to catch-up. Personally it drives me crazy. I think it drags on, and I don’t like the way the Alec dithers over what to say. But Jo liked it, and thought it worked well. Obviously, I will probably still edit the scene to a point where I’m satisfied with it, but I don’t feel the need to hack half the scene away, as I was planning to do.

I would highly recommend finding a writing buddy if you’re thinking about trying this challenge, or even if you just want to get serious about your writing in general. While I’m a fairly solitary writer, I find that having a second set of eyes for redrafting is crucial, and it never hurts to have a sounding board to bounce ideas off. Yesterday, 90% of the questions we asked each other were about plot. Mine were mostly about the age of the characters, and whether I needed to age them up or down to fix the storyline. Jo’s were about character arcs, personality changes and possible relationships. I think we both came out of there with a better idea of where we were going.

Of course the best thing about having a writing buddy, is that, unlike your other friends (or family members), who are likely to tell you that your writing is amazing and they love it and that they can’t wait to read more, your writing buddy will know when to get a bit ruthless. They know the importance of brutal honesty, and what to look for. Jo pointed out that in one scene I had given Alec a phone with a battery life of over a month, and I had crammed about three major plot developments into another. The first was a mistake that I had completely missed, the second, a reoccurring issue (I get over excited sometimes, okay?) that I have picked up on in some places but not in others.

Discussing work like this can be difficult at first – believe me, if you’d asked me 4 years ago if I wanted someone to thoroughly critique my writing, I would have told you where to go – but the fact is, a novel is never just yours, not if you actually want it read. At some point you are going to receive negative criticism, and the sooner you learn to separate the constructive from the pure opinion, the better. You learn to take what’s useful, and disregard the rest, and so you improve. Honestly, I don’t know where I’d be without you, Jo!

Love,

Mort.

P.S. If anyone else would like to join us, you are still more than welcome. I’m sure I will be editing and discussing long after I’ve finished my first draft, so seriously, come on, my friend! Let’s do this!

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The Graham Greene Affair: Week 1

The Grahame Green Affair
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The Graham Greene Affair: Week 1

I am genuinely surprised by how well this is going. Even last night, when my face was on fire after an unpleasant trip to the dentist, I managed to crack out 500 words. I’ve discovered that 500 words really isn’t much for me, and I’ve actually overshot it a few times. I can usually crack it out in and hour or an hour and a half, and that’s when I’m mucking about on thinkbabynames.com, and researching penalties for Class A drugs. So what are the Pros and Cons I’ve found at the end of Week 1?

Pros

1. Making consistent progress – At the begining of this week, my novel was 11,000 words. It had taken me almost a year to write 5000 words. Rimjhim is now over 15000 words and counting. It feels so good to be making progress again.

2. Getting enthusiastic – By stopping in the middle of a scene, I cause myself to keep thinking about what comes next. I learn new things about my characters, and find myself acting out bits and pieces in my head, as I used to. I was so worried this story had gone stale, feeling that spark of enthusiasm again was a big relief.

3. Get’s you thinking – In order to knock out 500 words, you need to have some idea of where you’d like to go when you sit down to write. For me this is particularly difficult because I’m working on four time frames congruently, switching back and forth between time frames. While I was thinking out what I was going to write next, I realised that each of these time frames needs to tell it’s own story that lead to the same resolution. This solved so many pacing problems, you wouldn’t believe.

4. Dat regular writing pattern though – Writing frequently, will tell you a boat load about how you work best. And this is exactly what I needed. I’ve learnt that I work best with the deadline of  sleep looming over me. But my friend, who is joining me on this epic journey fits her 500 words in whenever, and wherever she can.

Cons

1. It’s time consuming – Of course it was always going to be, but I forgot to factor in editing time. I am one of those writers that likes to pick things apart as I’m going along, so while writing doesn’t take that long, I have already deleted 400 words.

2. Self-awareness overload – Earlier this week, I became hyper aware of how much dialogue I write, to the point where I was actually adding in unnecessary description. It took a long look through The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton (my favourite Sherlock Holmes story) to remind myself that when you have two characters with good chemistry, all you have to do is set up the scene, and then roll with it.

All in all, it’s been an interesting first week, and I’m impressed with my stamina. Writing everyday has caused some issues, but it’s reignited my love for Rimjhim. I’ve become one of those over-eager parents, desperate to see how my baby’s going to work out. Fingers crossed, I’ll be this happy next week.

Ciao,

Mort.

Project Summer: What to expect when you’re expecting.

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It’s a common analogy; your novel is your baby. You give birth, you raise it, you send it out into the world and hope it can stand on its own two feet long enough to make a living.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this analogy recently, because being eleven chapters into editing (and yes, that number hasn’t changed since yesterday) I’m procrastinating like crazy and so, I think about these things.

The life of a novel usually begins with a moment of blissful inspiration. However, inspiration on its own is not enough. In order for conception to occur, the inspiration must combine with determination, triggering enthusiasm which allows the formation of an idea. This idea will then implant in the lining of your brain, until you set pen to paper.

Setting pen to paper can be a lengthy process, and you may experience Writer’s Block, where you sit and hover the pen over a blank sheet of paper, but don’t actually get anything out. Don’t worry, false alarms like this are quite usual. Just go home, put your feet up, maybe read a book or watch some TV.  It’ll come eventually, though be warned, when it does, things can get messy; notes will be thrown everywhere, ink may be smeared on skin and surfaces. Pain is also quite normal; sore joints (particularly in the hands) and head pain (from too much pushing) are frequent complaints of all novelists.

Of course, once you finally get that pen going (or even that keyboard) you will hopefully fall hopelessly in love with your novel. Note its curious little characters, its wonderful setting and the way it’s story entwines with your plot. All things sure to make a writer coo. That is when it’s not keeping you up late at night, telling you it needs writing, or editing, or that chapter just needs reading one more time. But during the day, oh no, no! No writing will be done then. The book is brewing in the back of your mind,as you flick round facebook, twitter, tumblr, watch some more TV, and all the time you’re thinking, “OH NOW YOU’RE SLEEPING.” That is until you’re out shopping, or with friends, or at work, or in a lecture hall, or somewhere else where it is highly inappropriate to whip out a notepad and start scrawling away the action. Novels demand attention at the least appropriate of times.

When your novel reaches the editing stages, it will become a lot less cute and it will be very hard to love. You will read the same conversation fifteen times, you will tell it what message you want to get across, you will try to change its symbology. It will be a mind numbing up hill struggle and you will doubt your ability as a writer daily. Only when it’s nearing that polished gleam that means you’re ready to send it out into the realms of agents and publishers, will it be easy to love again, will you feel a little proud. And yes, it might come back with a rejection letter, but you’ll be able to fix it up and send it out again and again until it either gets and offer or you start working on a sibling.

What is the point of this blog?

The point is; my novel is an aggressive teenager and now I feel sorry for what I put my mother through. After all, she couldn’t just close the Word Document down and go get a cup of tea. Oh! Tea!