Scene 3: The Badgers threaten.


Cue some jazzy intro music. Perhaps – no, definitely – a saxophone solo. And some maracas. Yes…that’s about right. Actually, the maracas are rubbish. Lose the maracas. Marimba? Surprisingly nice.

Mood funky – check, panning camera panning – check. Fade into…

mannekenpis-brussels-belgium-filipfuxa-shutterstock_39608626-600…The man sits at the desk, staring at the piece of paper in front of him, anguish writ large upon his face. Suddenly he wonders why he has started the scene in the third person.

Irritated, he gives a terse shake of his head. That should sort it, he thinks.

I stood up, crumpling the paper angrily, and threw it with the abandon of an overtly sensual basketball player throwing a ball whilst dead. It missed the basket.

I paced, my mind a whirl, or a whorl or something.

The paper I had discarded had printed upon it (with some sort of typeface and ink magic) a telegram. It said the following:

Sir stop Sir Kenneth Badger is dead stop Now we will have our revenge upon you stop

I’d known Sir Kenneth for thirty years. His death had shaken me to my rabid and infertile core. And on top of that, suddenly they were after me.

If I’d been any sort of a man I would have thrust out my chin, found some cloth and girded my loins, then stood with my noble feet apart and a grisly look in my eyes.

But I wasn’t just any sort of man. I was the man who brought the world to it’s knees after the interview of the century. Sigh…THE INTERVIEW OF THE CENTURY. So long ago it haunts me yet. With Kenneth’s passing I was the only one left who could stop the inevitable. But I was old. So old.

But age changed nothing. I needed to save Belgium or the world would end and it’d be my fault. And the Badgers were after me.

Cue pause for melodramatic sting and fade to a justly vapid green.

 

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Check out the heft on THAT milestone…!


Look, if you didn’t want me to write updates about my word count you should have avoided looking at my blog. Oh, you have tried? Well screw you, here’s an update.

And so this week I hit 60k words for the first time on one project. I think I did a 52k a while back that died on its arse, but never 60k. Let’s, good people, put that into context.

That’s 1.65 times the size of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and there’s NO slimy christian allegories in sight.

That’s 1.30 times the size of Fahrenheit 451 and no books were harmed in the crafting.

It’s also 0.67 times the size of Orwell’s magnificent 1984, although sanity, as they say, is not statistical.

It is 0.29 times the girth of Moby Dick, and, incidentally, I have some whales in it. Don’t ask.

Finally, as I have just spent pretty much three months (it could be longer) writing it so far, I think to have completed the equivalent of 0.131 of the Lord of the Rings is not a bad job, and there are no dull elven songs messing with your mojo. Bloody elves.

That is all.

 

PS, that’s twenty-thousand of your English words done in eleven days. I’d say that counts as a spurt.

The Appropriate tale – an update


Forty-thousand words. Many of them meaningless out of context, and much of the content spurious. That is the current condition of my latest attempt to string the bullshit into some sort of story.

Not bad, you may think, but you’d be wrong.

As I embarked upon this literary adventure I took heed of advice from the great, the good and the prolific. They said, write about what you know. So I did that. Or, rather, I am doing that. But the results are not fun to read. There are great swathes of text where my character (whose name, is Appertan, or ‘Apt’, because it is appropriate. I am a funny man) just bumbles around not knowing what’s going on. The character is, of necessity, something of me, although not directly. There are elements of me (the self-deprecation, the scything wit and the idleness), but I have mostly just tried to make him flourish organically, rather than try to follow some masterplan. The way I see it is that if I try too hard it’ll become noticeable.

The same goes for the locale. I have set this particular tale in a place that reminds me very much of the hebridean isles of Scotland. Why? because it’s braw. This has allowed me to use my familiarity with the environs to give the some texture without too much in the way of being geographically creative. The result is a place and a person I am comfortable to write about. And lots of rain, heather, and a baddie with ginger hair (he may not be a baddie – I am undecided).

Unfortunately, I have found the actual plot somewhat difficult to pin down. Yeah, that really IS a big problem. I have plots ongoing (revenge, ambition, etc) but am struggling to forge them into a working tale.

But you don’t want to hear my griping, so I’ll shut up for now. I have some writing to do, and I have to inject it all with some drama and verve. So…that’ll be easy then. But if it were easy it wouldn’t be rewarding, would it?

Prolix Inveigle Discombobulate Tuft…


Words, eh? Lovely cuddly spongy words. I love ’em. Can’t get enough of ’em. I can frequently be found using them (not often correctly).

I read somewhere of a blog that was whittling down their favourite words to get to a “Best Word Ever”. Last time I looked the finalists were ‘Gherkin’ and ‘Diphthong’, two lovely words. They are not my favourite words, however. I have a penchent for ‘Prolix’ which is, after some thought, ironic. And also ‘Schism’ and ‘Woggle’ and ‘Flap’. Not to mention ‘Quixotic’, ‘Inveigle’, ‘ and so on.

In fact, the reason I write at all is because of a book I accidentally stole from my mate – namely Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. For the first time in my life the sheer beauty of the written word was apparent to a heedless youth. The way the sentences were formed in that book were chaotically and inspiringly beautiful. I felt quite blown away by it. I’ll admit it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – some think the book is awful – but I loved what was wrought in those pages. Suddenly it all made sense. That book is why ‘Prolix’ is my favourite word.

Anyway, I know this is somewhat jumping the blogger’s bandwagon, but what are your favourite words??

Get thee hence, draft…


Well. That’s that then. Another 23,000 words consigned to the ever-increasing pile marked ‘Put down to experience’. Yes, it’s another writing blog post big on introspection, flimsy on entertainment. I could not blame you for being bored already, but hold on, young and easily strung-along readers, there’s more…

Having enjoyed a period of relative productivity (I have low standards) I have ground to an almighty halt. I have bored myself with my characters and story, which can only mean one thing…it’s crap. I was listening to Fantasy Faction’s podcast interview with Joe Abercrombie, that giant of modern fantasy. He said something that resonated with me;

“…if you don’t read what you write and think, actually that’s quite exciting, you’d never get past the first page.”

Characterisation is becoming distinctly problematic. I don’t have confidence in my own hodgepodge half-arsed approach and I may have to actually go and do some bloody learning on how to do it – a course or some such huge annoyance. This is not to say I will stop. The world-building is coming along. I have places I can visualise, and a general awareness of the layout and set-up. I have got an idea about the magic system that is pretty much nailed on. SO there are positives…I shall contemplate further.

Meanwhile I will start again. Surprisingly, this whole tortuous process has revealed a more refined plot and structure, though the ‘how’ to address it remains elusive.

Navel-gazing


As both regular viewers of my posts will know, I am consistant in my inconsistency. I am 15k words into version 3.0 of my current project and I am at the point where I have to decide what my direction is, which has occurred on precisely two other starts of this story. It is a time of ponderous thought and introspection, which is what the regular blogger absolutely LOVEs. There’s nothing better than pontificating about yourself, even if you are pretty much the only person listening.

But you don’t want to hear about my woes, and my crippling inability to get more than a couple of thousand words out on a good day (an optimistic estimate) or how I have no actual talent for writing. No, you want to hear about something interesting.

Well sorry to disappoint, but the forging of a piece of writing IS introspection personified. It is no surprise that agoraphobics love to be writers, as do misanthropes and the perpetually angry, and the reason is that you can dwell on your opinions, your feelings and your peculiarities and use them as fodder to the writing. There are other reasons, but as an angry agoraphobic misanthrope I forget them.

Cathartic is the word. For me the writing is a chance to face the inner demons, of which I have a few –  impressive ones stacked away in my subconscious like angry bats. If I didn’t have my writing I would find my life significantly less bearable. Thank you, words.

 

Love spreads around…


Love is the topic for today. Love…rhymes with glove, which is interesting in ways I have yet to think of. Perhaps something about it sheathing the hand or something to do with fingers. Unpleasant and leathery.

But I digress.

I have been scribbling away in my sporadic manner, and I have found myself describing a scene where the thorny issue of love has raised it’s head. I am sure that many writers out there absolutely LOVE a bit of the old romance – it appears to be easy for them, although I have not looked into it (that spanks too much of research which itself spanks too much of organised effort, which all right-minded people should avoid at all cost). But I find the whole process enormously ridiculous, despite its necessity. Or perhaps because of that necessity.

Of course, LOVE is a part of life, as much as tedious local TV news and the rightful aversion to camping out, and as such it should feature in my character’s lives, but why do I find it all so, well, embarrassing?

Can it be my Britishness? We do have an aversion to overt expressions of intimacy or feelings (at least we did prior to 1997…Lady Di and all that….wow…talk about over the top. Thanks US). Or could it be more personal? Probably the latter.

It’s not a big issue, don’t get me wrong. I can write romantic shash until the cows wend their way back to their barn-of-birth, but while I am doing it I am realising with increasing annoyance that it IS shash. To me it seems that any real attempt to impart the feelings that occur in a romantic triste cannot help but be tawdry, tedious and contrived. It is so subjective.

Romance is the bedrock of a lot of stories, as is action, adventure and a beginning and an end, but the extent to which it features is up to the author. I am going to be careful that it does not become a central theme, which I admit is a decision of personal taste.

I’m just not going to dwell on it. I’m going to be doing the equivalent of sitting down, having a cup of Yorkshire Gold and being sensible about it, like a good old fashion Brit. I prefer it that way.

All the above is an excuse to post this drawing of mine. I LOVE IT!

Dialoguing-off


Damn you BT. Damn your feeble attempts to connect me to the internet with indifferent effectiveness. Damn your blocking of the pirate bay, damn your corporateness (I think I just made that up) but mostly, er, well mostly the first one. STOP DEPRIVING ME OF THE SERVICE I PAID FOR.

And don’t get me started on the miraculously diminishing download speed, where it appears phantom cyber-monkeys are throttling the living hell out of some wires in a tube underground.

But, meh, I’m not really that bothered. It’s too warm to bother. Why bother, I think in intemperate misery.

Yeah, the internet keeps freezing, or becoming the wiry equivalent of an annoying dribble. When I write (and I do, despite the lack of evidence in support of that fact at the moment) I find I am forever nipping off to obscure websites to gather bizarre and, on the face of it, completely pointless spasms of information (yes, that is my new name for piles of pointless information).

For instance, how do you address a Seneschal? And then what are the ingredients required for candle making? How do you make leaf-spring suspension? How do meteors work?

I simply don’t have the wherewithal to make a note, search later and then seamlessly remember what the hell I was scribbling about and why I suddenly needed to know what the best knot for a rabbit snare is. I need instant access. Evernote (bless the damn thing. Really…I love it) can only do so much. It is simply INTOLERABLE I cannot get on the tinterwebby thing on demand. My toys are hereby ejected from my cot.

It’s either that or actually plan what I write, but forty years of evidence to the contrary says that ain’t gonna happen.

As far as the new effort goes, well I realise that I was having problems with my character development. This is not news, and I do not mean to imply that I now do not have a problem, but I am trying to amend that by concentrating on a solitary character a bit more. I borrowed strands from previous efforts, and decided that the quest idea should be less central to the story and I am also trying to address the character of the city I am choosing to set this stuff in. This is the city of Alagaunt (oh yeah, they say, that’s the name of the blog! How clever… Fade to black).

I reckon the city needs to be more central too. So I am working on less overall main characters which always helps. One has to start small, after all. Of course, this will probably all change…but therein lies the interesting bit. I get to pack the characters and city with spasms of stuff. Cool.

Learning to appreciate the learning curve


Learning. We’re always learning. Ta daaa (I felt the introduction needed a salutary fanfare).

Some learn more than others, obviously (you dullards know who you are) but they are always learning nonetheless, despite evidence to the contrary (no, you do not spell etcetera with an ‘x’). Take maths. No…don’t….bad example. I know, take WRITING!

I have ditched a 55k word-fest and now a 35k one had joined its fellow on the rubbish heap of misadventure. But I have realised that every time I go through this ridiculous exercise (typing away like a wordy squirrel with a penchant for diet coke, agoraphobia and a squirrel-sized iMac) I find myself improving. Not creatively, necessarily, but definitely craft-wise, which is erratically rewarding enough, as it happens.

For me writing is not simply about the result (although it’d be nice), it’s more about the sheer joy of scrambling together a scene that does justification to the idea behind it – that paints it as I saw it. Or phrasing something in a way that immediately resonates. It is rewarding in itself, too.

So here I am, 4k into yet another start. The world I have created continues to come into focus at every failure. Although the word ‘failure’ is incorrect. The result of those  tens of thousands of misconceived words means the 4k I have are better than the last two. It’s a learning curve after all. The nature of the beast means it’ll never plateau either so there is endless LEARNING.

The concern is, of course, that I may never finish anything, but I am heartened by the knowledge that I am not a perfectionist so I can see myself, one day, saying, ‘Yep. That’s it done. I am happy with that” although I would hope to use more profound words – words I could one day tell Parky I used and people would quote and Paxman would question fresh-faced under-graduates about.

The igloo dweller


Progress, like the amount of fun a man can have in an igloo (apparently), is minimal. I have been slogging on, losing the plot (literally) and re-writing like I have nothing better to do than get mired in a morass. I don’t even know what a morass is.

I have managed something like 500 words a day on average, a quite feeble effort, and I am struggling to figure out why. I haven’t got writer’s block, it’s more of a problem than that. In all honesty I might not be cut out for this. No amount of scraping at the icy walls will do it, it seems.

How’s that for negative thinking?

But I will persist. I know that I will get reinvigorated just as soon as my slow mind works out something interesting. My main problem are my characters, I reckon. The character development is meagre – it’s quite difficult to work out how to do it without it being overt. Subtlety has ever been my downfall. Belief sometimes too.

It’s lucky that I know that dips are only part of the journey. There’s always a resurgent peak to look forward to, isn’t there? Bah, just get back to blogging  and writing and stop this introspective babbling!

Oh, I’m not really in an igloo…