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.


Chapter 10 – and Part 2 Complete

Chapter 10 has been hard to finish. For one thing, it was a question of aiming everything towards this critical point and having a number of key story transitions all take place at that same point – that took some difficult manipulating. For another thing, while writing chapter 10, I had a number of revelations that caused me to significantly revise earlier parts of the story. I’m actually still going through that process, but those revisions are noted. I know what needs to be done. I’ve reached the end of the chapter 10 narrative and I’m prepared to call it; to feel OK about reaching this point. The novel is currently 52,782 words long.

The revelations are really interesting. I found out about the purpose of the lioness in the story. Up until now she’s been there because, frankly, it instinctively felt right for her to be there. But now I understand why it felt right. There is a narrative purpose, very much rooted in the back story that has increasingly been revealed as the story builds forward. And there’s an essential symbolic role for her to perform. It’s lucky I let my instincts guide me. On this single, unique occasion they’ve proven valid. A few tweaks are still needed to cement this new understanding of her, but it positions her in the story so much more elegantly, and necessarily! She has changed her name, from Skaistule to Vienmēr – yes, an odd name, I know.

I’ve also been researching and, as a result, been able to draw elements of traditional European mythology into the story. I think these elements will enrich part 3 and they fit really well with what already exists in the story and with what was already planned for part 3.

I’m pretty happy with the story at this point, and enthusiastic about getting into part 3. I’m also enthusiastic about writing The Flood, which I’ll be getting into first. I guess the next time I’ll be updating this page, it’ll probably be about that! By the way, how beautiful is this image of a lioness I found on Google image search? It’s by Swedish photographer: Pekka Järventaus. You can see more of his work here.

Chapter 9 complete.

I don’t have an illustration to accompany this post. I Google-image-searched pictures of vacant-eyed, 19th century female circus animal trainers, but there was nothing satisfactory. For some reason I looked through the works of Odilon Redon, the late 19th/early 20th century French surrealist painter, draftsman and printmaker, whom I have admired since I was a teenager, and though many of his works carry the right sort of atmosphere, none of them were a perfect match for what’s going on in chapter 9. I might be able to use some of them when I’m posting about Part 3, though. They have exactly the right sort of surreal, religious, desolate feel for much of what’s going to be taking place between chapters 11 and 15.

While I’m making associations with other people that make creative stuff, I’ll just mention that my soundtrack for chapter 9 has been Tim Hecker: an amazing ambient musician who produces work that spends most of its time being extremely intense, which isn’t a word you’d usually associate with ambient music. I’ve been listening to his albums: Virgins, Ravedeath 1972 and Harmony in Ultraviolet, and I’m hooked. Its not the kind of stuff you want to sing along to in the car, but for keeping me in the right sort of mood to write about two melancholy lovers heading inexorably towards the existential abyss, it’s just the thing. Björk’s 2015 album: Vulnicura has also been receiving a lot of play. Its wonderful.

The story now sits at 47,490 words, total. Chapter 9 has dealt with the start of the downward journey for our two hapless protagonists. The law is on their trail, hunters are after them, and their ties to each other are fraying. Also, poor Valentina’s situation is becoming clearer as she descends into some sort of possessed madness. We seem to be gaining pace toward some decisive and possibly awful event, ending Chapter 10 and Part 2. 🙂

More soon.

Three One Act Plays now also in traditional book format

The title says it all really. I’m not sure anyone will want to own a book of my first three one-act plays, but now they can. Maybe it will become a curiosity in the future, if I ever get anything else published. Anyway, now that this vanity project is completed, I’m able to get back to the real work of writing The Worm, which is currently 6 scenes into chapter 9.

My book of short plays is available here.

In other news, an idea is starting to emerge for a new play or story called “The Flood”. It’s around what happens to people during a disaster. The way disasters can be a catalyst for the emergence of natural instincts, for better and for worse, and how this can play out as social threads start to unravel. That feels like a compelling idea to me.

Chapter 8 completed: The Monster is born

42,512 words. Past the halfway mark. I’ve now been working on this novel for a year. I remember the incredibly unprepared state of mind I was in when I commenced. I had no idea how to start writing a novel, but reasoned it must involve writing some words, so I thought I would start writing some words and see what happened. Like a long ocean voyage, the commencing is all about vague expectations and excitement, but somewhere along the way it becomes more a matter of discipline.

Chapter 8 functions as a hinge in the story; a definite change in direction; the end of the upward and the start of the downward. For the past 12 months my shorthand for this chapter has been: “The Monster is Born”, and that, I think, is what ended up happening. He’s out of the bag now, and can only become more monstrous.

Chapter 8 also provides the long-awaited reveal about Viktor and Alexis’ distant past, and with it, by far the longest scene in the story thus far. A two thousand eight hundred-word scene of dialog. This was probably the most difficult scene I’ve written so far and I revised it and revised it, but I think it reads OK.

Chapters 9 and 10 are reasonably-well plotted. The end of chapter 10 will mark the end of part 2; the second third of the novel. Chapter 8 heavily featured Alexis’ aunt: Lena, who is a nurse, hence the above photo of a nurse.

Follow your dreams, unless they are nightmares. Don’t follow your nightmares.

The Electric Fence completed

Today I finished a new short story I’ve been writing over the past couple of weeks: ‘The Electric Fence’. This will be my submission to this year’s Elizabeth Jolley prize. It’s the first short story I’ve done since ‘The Signal Box’, a year ago.

This story, I think, continues a style I found in The Signal Box. I’ve had a feeling I’m starting to find my ‘voice’, whatever that is. A style or kind of story that feels like mine; like I’m no-longer just doing my version of what someone else does. That’s probably been a big part of the journey over the past three years, so its good to feel like I’m arriving at that point.

Like The Signal Box, The Electric Fence can probably be read as a sort of allegory. Neither story is concerned with the time or place in which its events are set. There are also, I think, clear themes of occupation, entrapment and escape. Developing on from The Signal Box though, I think this one is more minimal. Also, it’s way less dark than The Signal Box, which for me is a refreshing development.

My next plan is to get back into ‘The Worm’, and write chapter 8. I also have an idea for continuing two earlier experimental stories: ‘Get Away’ and ‘Forever’ by tying them together in another sort of experiment. This would be a departure from the style I’ve been exploring and discussing above, but it’s an experiment that interests me. The working title for this latter work is: ‘Europa’.

Happy new year! A new cover version recorded and chapter 7 completed

Among the hundreds of thousands of Facebook reflections on ending the year and starting a new one, Brian Eno has posted a few words that provide a perspective that I think is well worth reading, so here it is.

I’ve been reasonably disciplined during the holidays, considering the amount of time I’ve been obliged to spend drinking alcohol with friends and family. I recorded a cover version of Big Star’s 1972 song: “Thirteen”, which I’ve been practicing for about 4 months, and today I finished chapter 7 of The Worm.

My word count is now 36,849. I’m definitely in the middle-ground of the story, which is exciting, but it’s also a challenging place to be. Progress is slow and painstaking. Completing chapter 7 has involved quite a lot of going back and rewriting earlier parts, especially in chapter 6. Before I finished the final scene of this chapter I had gone back and inserted 3 scenes in chapters 6 and 7. I think because this novel is growing in an organic way, it involves more re-writing than would have been necessary if I’d had a clearer, more detailed plan to start with (ie; the way you’re supposed to write a novel). I just keep having more ideas that need to be in the story, and many of them effect earlier parts. I think the second draft process – once the first draft of the novel is completed – is going to have to be pretty extensive. Also, I think it’s probably true that I’m a different sort of writer now than when I started this project. By word-count it’s so far the equivalent of about 7 of my short stories, and I’ve definitely learnt and evolved my writing style during the process. I’m going back and reading some of the early scenes and wincing. What was acceptable 9 months ago isn’t any longer.

I’m really happy with the shape and texture of the novel. As it develops, it’s assuming a more poetic, nuanced feel, and at the same time some epic themes are emerging and growing. I’m finding that a novel is such a huge project, that it’s difficult to conceive of as the work of yourself as one individual. It just seems so big! It’s almost impossible to keep a detailed handle on all the parts; on what happens across the whole thing.

Chapter 7 primarily involves moving the location of events from Virsma, the small town where the novel’s opening events take place, to Ala, the big city to the north. Viktor and Alexis are spending their time on trains and in train stations. I’ve also introduced two new characters: Lena Finks: Alexis’ aunt, and Daniel Röntgen, the police investigator from Ala who takes on the case. Also, in chapter 7 the thread involving Skaistule – the lioness – connects with the story of Anton, the injured child, in what I think is an intriguing and satisfying way.