Tag Archives: Writing

The four thousand word a day challenge; day two

Fell short of the four thousand word mark today at 3617. Close, but no cigar. Yesterday was 4212, so that averages out at a shade over 3900 words, excluding headings so far. However, the story is at a natural break part of the narrative with a nicely barbed narrative hook baited.

Tomorrow I move on to the next phase of the story which is mostly in note form, so cracking the 4000 might be a little easier.

Cerberus is taking shape nicely.

The four thousand word a day challenge: day one

Harper Vector are opening their books to new authors without agents for two weeks from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. They are looking for new science fiction and fantasy authors for an assault on the eBook marketplace. I have a novel I’d like to submit, but the problem is it’s all notes and fragments, and there’s two weeks to go before the submission floodgates open.

No agent has seen fit to respond to my many missives about other work over the years, and I’m pretty sure my work has gone unread and straight into the shredder. No agent, and no publisher will even look at your work. Not even into their slush piles. However, there is a window of opportunity here, and I’m going for it. At a target of four thousand words a day starting yesterday.

Word count for the first novel in the Cerberus series started at 20338 16th September. Current word count 25982 Tuesday 18th September 08:40am Pacific Standard Time. 1500 pretty good words since 6:10am this morning. Another thousand before 10am when I go off to the day job, and another 1500 after I get home around 6pm. Add in cooking breakfasts, making tea and suppers for both Angie and I, cleaning kitchen, brushing dog, and acting as Angie’s home tech support, plus watching a movie with her, and I have a full day. Tonight’s movie fare will be the Bourne Supremacy.

I have to keep up this work rate for fourteen whole days. I’m currently out of my office and working in the kitchen almost full time. Which seems to work. Back in 1987 I put together a 40,000 word novella, ‘Machine’ from scratch in thirty days using an old Imperial Safari. So work rate isn’t a problem. Hodder and Stoughton did ask me about writing a series back then, but I felt the character of the ‘Machine’ didn’t have enough in him to justify extending the franchise. I still have the old MSS, and revisit it from time to time. Just to see if I can pick holes in it. Oddly enough, that was written in a kitchen too.

Right. 9am. Break over. Back to work.

The hardest part of bringing characters to light and bolting them into a riveting story is the opening and closing sequences. Those I have. The rest of the story is mostly a detective whodunnit with some serious sci-fi roots. I’ve also managed to get a handle on who Paul Calvin is. A psychic cop with a conscience in a crumbling society, but that is all I’m giving away on this blog.

Another loss

Neil Armstrong, astronaut, one of my boyhood heroes is gone. Complications after bypass surgery so we’re told, but at the end of a remarkable life. One of only 12 people to ever set foot on another world. First man to set foot on the moon, test pilot, engineer and old fashioned hero.

This has saddened me deeply. I don’t feel much like writing today. Just editing, proofing and fact checking. That and an evening shift at work.

Angie is talking about a couple of days in Kelowna wine country and I’m inclined to go and leave the keyboard behind, although that might prove a little bit too much of a wrench. The first Cerberus novella is looking great, and Darkness is taking shape nicely. Must say I’m looking forward to completing the trilogy, as Stars is the result of eight years work so far. Eight bloody years. I could have done medical school or learned to play the saxophone, or perhaps not. You do what you do and that’s that.

Now stepping away from the keyboard. I need a break. A proper break.

Moments of perfect stillness

Friday was a good day, despite a couple of hitches. The only Triumph dealership on Vancouver Island has no sales demo models of the type of sports tourers I’m looking at, and we had to go rushing around for an ATM at the Brentwood / Mill bay ferry, as they only take cash or prepaid tickets. No credit cards.

The majority of the day was taken up with an unscheduled side trip to Butchart Gardens, a gorgeous 55 Acre flower garden and Arboretum created in an old limestone quarry. Most of the blooms are typically North American, big, a trifle blowsy, but nonetheless quite wonderful. The air subtly scented except for the heady, musky sledgehammer between the sinuses that is the fragrance of a lily.

Angie and I continued one of our philosophical conversations about how to find what I call “Moments of perfect stillness” and their use in aiding the creative process. We walked barefoot on grass, simply stopped and looked, took pictures, and in between noisy knots of people tried to explore this notion. I feel the flowers helped her understand my occasional silences are never a rebuff, merely preoccupation.

For my own part I’ve always been concerned that the need to talk incessantly reveals a deep inner insecurity. A need for constant reassurance indicating that all is not well with them. For the interrupted, it breaks the flow of ideas, and can scatter the creative thought process like a thousand startled pigeons. It’s what I call being ‘Porlocked’ after Coleridges eponymous ‘person from Porlock‘.

When I feel sure of my territory, or need to test concepts out, I share them with friends, but not before. I’m also pretty careful who I share them with. There’s nothing worse than saying what’s on your mind when whoever you talk to isn’t in the mood, doesn’t take you seriously, and / or has a mind so closed it visibly clanks when the cogs start turning.

In seeking a ‘moment of stillness’, my way of ‘getting there’ is simply to focus on a sound or smell and close my eyes, or focus on a vague point in the middle distance. Then concentrate. What does your chosen sound or smell mean? What are its associations and how do you feel about them? There are a number of self help authors who recommend this approach, but I always found the superficial Mnemonics they recommend a little too flimsy for keeping stories about whole worlds in my head. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great for small stuff, but not so good for mentally bookmarking extended storylines and the ever branching tree of character development. I have to be able to see, hear, and almost touch these thought-avatars for this mental anchor to function.

What really works for me is to add layers of ideas until the base concept of the focus object / memory feels solid in my mind, and then use that specific memory as a kind of mental mooring post. From that point it becomes relatively easy to concentrate on other things because the moment centres your thoughts, not letting them drift aimlessly and lose the truly important stuff you wanted to think about in the first place. It’s a form of self hypnosis. One which seems to work when heavy duty cogitation is required, and especially in unknown or uncertain mental territory. An occupational hazard when trying to write speculative fiction.

Take this blog post. I started it on Saturday, and picked at it through multiple interruptions, my over excitable dog, a couple of domestic dramas, a heavy duty conversation about email functionality, impending flights, other peoples preoccupations, travel plans for the next five years, a reorganisation of my kitchen and telephone calls from friends, family and various automated autodiallers. Using the moment of perfect stillness that I constructed as an anchor point, I can still flip up the memory of Butchart Gardens. Amongst other things; including story lines and character trees.

I’ve even managed to keep up a consistent 1 – 2000 words per day on ‘Darkness’ and ‘Cerberus’. Rugged.

Cerberus; an epiphany

This morning I got talking to Angie about matter, and how I looked at a mundane thing such as a fist. Half an hours breakfast conversation turned into a seven hundred word intro, which finally broke a logjam of ideas stalling the Cerberus project.

Now I’ve finally opened the floodgates into a massive story, which I’ve been trying to do for over five years. A series of eBooks about Paul Calvin, renegade cop with a psychic talent. the third in the series almost wrote itself, but I hadn’t a clue how to build the rest of the story arc. Until this mornings little epiphany.

Watch this space. 1400 words of really first class copy today, and what even my wife calls ‘electric’ reading. Cerberus has just been raised from the almost dead. Even I think it’s good.

Listening to Seals dance

Last night as dusk closed in, I was sitting out on the deck with Angie.  Not talking, but just listening to the night sounds.  From down in the narrows came the splashing slapping sound I now understand to be a Seal mating display.  A male Seal, in order to attract a mate, dives deep, then rockets three quarters of its body length out of the water before falling back with flippers outstretched to bellyflop on the water.  Makes a heck of a racket.  The sound carries for miles.  There were three I was sure of coming from distinct locations.  One half way down Mudge Island.  One between Round Island and Cedar shore, and another further down towards Boat ramp.  All making a racket.  All clamouring for attention.  Splash-bang!  Splash-bang!  Me, me, me!

What with one thing and another I should have been doing something similar with regards to the Stars Trilogy and my other work.  The only problem is that I’ve been busy doing other things, or there have been too many distractions.  My writing has been effectively dead in the water for six months, and my self imposed deadline for completing “Darkness” has simply whooshed on by.  It has stalled.  I have a beginning and an end, but the middle, the meat in the sandwich, is sparse and unsatisfying.

My problem is that my work is viewed by my family as some kind of bizarre and unproductive hobby, and in some ways I suppose it is.  Yet every time I revisit the previous two volumes, the more they grow on me.  There is nothing wrong with the stories or the writing, apart from being just shy of 150,000 words apiece.  The mini universe my narrative inhabits does not fall into what I refer to as the ‘Unicorns and fairies’ stuff of hyperintelligent pan dimensional beings (Who all look surprisingly human), just an isolated and querulous humanity, wrapped up in their own agendas, and struggling to get by on their brave new worlds. 

Angie has been nudging me to do some more promotional events to publicise my works, but to be honest I haven’t a clue where to start.  Nor the funds.  I’m revisiting my artwork (Which still looks good, even in poster sizes) and have written to the organisers of next years Vancouver Science Fiction convention, asking how it works, and what an author has to do in order to make an appearance. Despite my occasional stammer, I’m a reasonable public speaker with, from my attempts at stand up comedy back in the 90’s, a decent sense of humour.  I can get a laugh out of a crowd, and if I can get ten words out, I can get a thousand or more, and make it entertaining to boot.  The issue is, finding the crowd.

The thought occurs that if a lonely seal needs to leap out of the water and slap down hard to get attention, perhaps I should follow his example.