Chapter 13 complete!

I just clicked “Save” on the final scene in Ch13. Phew! It’s been… not tough but, a lot of work. Lots of back-tracking. This chapter took me two months to write. Word-count for the novel is now sitting at 73,739.

This photo of a broken windmill corresponds with where Viktor and Vienmēr find themselves at the conclusion of Ch13. It would be true to say this is a pretty dark chapter. Not that there haven’t been dark chapters previously, but I think I probably plumbed new depths with this one.

Only two chapters to go now – so close to the end of this epic journey! I can hardly believe it!

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Wednesday

Despite appearances I actually have been working, in a reasonably disciplined fashion, there’s just been a lot of revision involved and it’s time-consuming. I’ve added about 4.5 to 5,000 words to earlier scenes in the writing of Ch13. It’s all about detail at this stage; adding detail.

What I wanted to mention tonight though, is my new house-mate: Wednesday. Here she is harassing me as usual when I’m trying to work. I met her on a rainy day in the engine-bay of a car in Milton about 6 weeks ago and – well, I just thought I should introduce her. She has become a pretty integral part of the creative process over the past few weeks. Either that or a continual distraction. Depending on how you look at it…

Chapter 12 finished, and the rest of the project plotted (like a proper writer)

It’s been a bit of a battle but Ch12 is done! For me, the most distinctive part of this part of the writer’s journey, was the process of plotting. So far, any plotting that’s been undertaken in the writing of this novel has happened in a pretty loose and general way, but towards the end of this chapter I reached an impasse. I realised I had a lot of characters I’d set in motion mainly instinctively, heading in various directions that felt right, but for many of them, I still wasn’t sure where these journeys were going to end up, and how, and why. In other words, how to tie the whole thing up. And since there are only 3 chapters to go, I realised the time really has come to do some proper plotting.

I did what I’ve read (and seen in movies) proper writers are supposed to do. I went to the newsagent, bought a pack of lined cards and spent 5 days thinking, writing out ideas for scenes on cards, moving them around on a table, tearing them up and throwing them in the bin and writing new ones. And it worked – mostly. I reached the point where much of the action was plotted, but there still remained a gaping hole around the most urgent question of all: Who fires the shot that kills Viktor? An interesting thing about this process is that it forces your attention into these plot holes. It makes you notice them, and solve them.

I ended up with a card with 3 ideas on it: I guess I always imagined Gyorg firing that bullet, but when I asked myself “why?” I couldn’t come up with any very compelling reason. I also had Anton’s name on the card, and Röntgen, but none of them made very compelling assassins. Having any of them be the one that pulls that trigger doesn’t really add to the story, and so I became frustrated. But then, as tends to happen, after 5 days pondering these matters, I was at work having my lunchtime run when, out of the ether, the perfect answer magically dropped into my brain. It was an answer I hadn’t considered, but which makes perfect sense, might surprise some readers, builds on the tragedy of the novel nicely, and ties together a number of threads very efficiently.

I got back to my desk, unable to suppress my grin, and wrote down the epiphany on my phone before I changed back into my office clothes. Then I spent the next 2 nights going back and re-writing previous scenes in order to make my new plot work.

So now I’m past the 65,000-word mark and heading for a 75,000 minimum, well past the time target I set myself just 2 months ago, but with a good plot to write to. I’m gonna finish this sucker!

A History of Flight and next things

Thanks to Phoebe the Wonder-Editor, “A History of Flight” has now gone from 2nd draft to 3rd and final stage. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this story is developed from a play I wrote 2 years ago. A History of Flight focuses on the back story of that play. I’m happy with it. It’s less self-consciously symbolic than much of what I’ve written recently… no, actually, that’s not true, it still wears it’s symbolism very proudly. I guess the main thing it has less of, than my recent stuff, is weirdness. It’s several degrees less weird than “Movie Night”, for example. It’s mainly, I think, just a story about people getting it wrong, and feeling terrible about it, as people often do 🙂

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been working on Chapter 12 of the Worm. As always, it’s slow, exacting work, and I never seem to have as much time for it as I hoped. Still, it crawls forward.

Meanwhile, in the background, I’ve been outlining a new story. This is another one I’ve had sitting around as an idea for ages. This seems to be part of my process: an idea comes, but it won’t flesh out into anything until it’s been sitting around for a couple of years, then one day I’m riding to work, or going for a run or something, when suddenly out of nowhere, the next parts of the idea come. It’s called “A Candle for Brother”. It’s a ghost story, or at least, it includes a ghost. Like one or two of my other stories, it originated as a dream. If I end up proceeding with anything like what I have currently outlined, it will be a long story: Possibly a novella, or a novelette, or whatever.

I mentioned in an earlier post, that these have been personally difficult weeks for me. A few friends have made extra effort to be supportive. Their presence has been far more valuable than I think they realise.

Chapter 11 Completed

I finished Chapter 11 of The Worm last night. This feels significant to me because it was difficult to get back into the novel after returning from Sweden. The last couple of months have been a time of great personal and emotional upheaval for me, plus, this chapter forms the start of the third (and final) part of the novel. I wrapped up part 2 and put it on the shelf before writing my last play: ‘The Flood’, so it had been quite some time since I’d worked on The Worm and it was kind-of hard to pull it out of hibernation and turn it back into an active project. But for the past few weeks I’ve been plugging away at it, and now that it’s done, I’m quite satisfied with chapter 11. This is the point at which the novel was always supposed to take a turn in a decidedly darker direction, and it definitely does that. I’m not going to pause before launching into chapter 12. I’ve settled into a pretty productive daily ritual of writing now.

I also intend starting a new short story, titled ‘A History of Flight’. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before. I did a tiny amount of work around this title a few months ago, but over the past few days, ideas have coalesced into what is now a pretty rich, layered idea for a story. This story draws from a play I wrote in 2015: ‘Over the Rainbow’: the story of a 10-year high school reunion. Over the Rainbow is the story of Melanie Hoxey, the victim of high school bullying and Dale Robertson, a classmate of Melanie’s. A History of Flight covers those events that took place back in high school, 10 years before the reunion; the events that would underscore the next ten years of Melanie’s life, and from which Dale, arguably, spends the next 10 years distancing herself.

Christmas is a week away. Looking back over this blog I’m surprised and a bit disappointed to see that I finished chapter 7 on January 1. I’ve only completed 4 chapters of the novel since then, and I still have 4 chapters to go! It’s been a slow year. I certainly hope it doesn’t take another year to reach the end of the novel! I guess, from now on, one chapter per month seems like a good target. First draft complete by end of April! Let’s see.

Happy Christmas to anyone that reads this.

Movie Night – Completed

Movie Night is finished. At various times this story has been known by other names, including – for about a year: ‘Europa’. It took longer than expected to get through the various drafts. I had particular trouble with part 1 of the story (there are 4 parts), and I’m still not completely sure it’s as good as it can be, but it was a difficult concept and I feel I’ve done as much with it as I’m able to, at least for now. So I’m calling it.

‘Movie Night’ is my first novelette. That is, something longer than a short story but not as long as a novella (novellas are at least 17,000 words and Movie Night is just under 14,000 words long). How did I come to write such a relatively long story? I’m glad you asked. Actually it’s the result of a long (4 years) experimental process that was not planned at the start, but which came into being and gradually assumed focus as I travelled the journey. Originally, in 2014 I wrote a short story entitled ‘Get Away’, which forms part 2 of Movie Night. Get Away is a deliberately obscure little story that I think would have left any reader with a lot of questions. The following year I had an idea for another story that would provide some clues to what I think of as the meta-themes in Get Away. ‘House Call’ (originally titled: ‘Forever’) forms part 3 of Movie Night. It’s not a sequel to Get Away, but it is closely, if somewhat tangentially connected. But I think the addition of House Call raised further questions about just exactly what the hell is going on in this strange universe. A couple of months ago, while holidaying in Sweden I conceived two further parts, a start and an end that would bookend the two existing stories, tie the whole thing together and hopefully give it some kind of understandable form. These have become part 1: ‘Movie Night’ and part 4: ‘Visiting Hour’.

Thus far I’m the only living soul that has read Movie Night through from start to end. I think people are going to find it a bit of a slog. I’m not sure if the connections between the 4 parts are sufficiently clear and obvious. I think most readers are likely to come to the end of it scratching their metaphorical heads and, if they have the energy, pondering, possibly re-reading sections and developing theories. And that’s pretty much the reader-experience I’ve been aiming for through the whole experiment. It’s about getting the right balance: sufficient strangeness to force you to question the story’s meaning, while at the same time, sufficient clues and connections to permit at least some level of understanding.

The difficulty now will be trying to get it placed somewhere. The market for fiction of this length is far smaller than for shorter stories. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. The little film poster at the top of this post is for a 1940 German film named: ‘Wunschkonzert’. This film – which was a pet project of Joseph Goebbels – was central in the research I undertook for part 3: ‘House Call’, and in fact features in the story, though it is not referred to by name.

In other news, I’ve started listening to Bob Dylan’s 1966 album: ‘Blonde on Blonde’. My whole life I’ve had no interest in Dylan’s music, but for some reason I’ve now developed the desire to understand it. I’ve let it into my life and I’m seeing if it gets under my skin. The times, they are a-changing.

The Flood – Completed, and Movie Night

We did a read through of The Flood on Friday night. I made final adjustments, printed it out and sent it off to the Noosa Arts Theatre One-Act Playwriting Competition this morning. I’m happy with it. Fingers crossed!

Now I’m working on an unusual project. In 2014 and 2015 I wrote two stories that paralleled each other – they covered the same events, happening to the same characters, but from the perspective of two very different dimensions – yes, It’s strange. Those two stories were “Get Away” and “Forever”. I always planned to tie these stories together with some additional content that would provide a meta-view; an explanation for how these dimensions are connected, and over the past year I’ve tried out a number of theories. During my walk in Sweden this all came together. I sat down on a rock in the middle of the arctic wilderness and made copious notes about what was needed to make a single, large, coherent piece out of these two existing stories. The resulting new amalgamation will be titled: “Movie Night”. It will probably fall short of a “Novella” by several thousand words, but it will be a very long, short story. Probably about 13 or 14 thousand words. I’m a few nights into working on this now. It’s starting to take shape.