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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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.

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.